Moss Carder Bee (Bombus muscorum) — ID Guide

Last week I wrote about the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) and I mentioned how it’s very distinctive but how there is also one confusion species, that’s what I’ll be writing about this week.

Species rich grassland near the coast in Co. Donegal, one of the few locations I’ve come across this species in the North of the country – Oisín Duffy
Species rich grassland near the coast in Co. Donegal, one of the few locations I’ve come across this species in the North of the country – Oisín Duffy

The Large or Moss Carder Bee (Bombus muscorum) is an extremely beautiful bumblebee species which is highly distinctive. I generally only find this species in coastal locations, sand dunes and flower rich meadows (although it has been found in parklands and urban areas also).

Large carder bee (Bombus muscorum) foraging on Water mint (Mentha aquatica) in a coastal habitat – Oisín Duffy
Large carder bee (Bombus muscorum) foraging on Water mint (Mentha aquatica) in a coastal habitat – Oisín Duffy

The species has a characteristic blond appearance, a ginger thorax flanked with blond hairs coupled with an abdomen which varies from a blond/brown/ginger (but with the overall appearance being blond). The species does not have any black hairs on the abdomen, which is a feature distinguishing from the common carder bee.

The hairs around the ginger thorax are much more blonde in B. muscorum than the white hair of B. pascuorum – Oisín Duffy
The hairs around the ginger thorax are much more blonde in B. muscorum than the white hair of B. pascuorum – Oisín Duffy

This is certainly a species which when you see it once, you’re not likely to forget it. It is also worth mentioning that this species is listed as “Near Threatened” in the Regional Red List of Irish Bees (Fitzpatrick et al, 2006). The main threat to the species is habitat loss. Bombus muscorum var. allenellus is a form of the species which is unique to the Aran Islands (which are located off the west coast of Co. Galway) which has black hairs on the thorax (if I am lucky enough to come across this species during the Summer I will make a special post for the variation).

Above

Both pictures (Above) and (Below) show rather hefty looking B. muscorum and its blond appearance.
Both pictures (Above) and (Below) show rather hefty looking B. muscorum and its blond appearance.

If anyone out there has any questions or suggestion regarding this piece or maybe regarding future pieces, feel free to get in touch through twitter @OshDuffy. If you enjoy posts and especially images of plants and pollinators, then be sure to follow me on twitter also.

Oisín Duffy
About Oisín Duffy 23 Articles
Oisín Duffy is an ecologist and environmental educator with a special interest in the Flora of Ireland and Pollinators. He is the photographer and co-author of Biodiversity Ireland’s identification guide on “Trees and Shrubs”. He has a BA from NUIG and an MSc from NUIG and UL. Oisín is an active biological recorder, and current Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county recorder for East Donegal (H34) and participates in a number of recording schemes run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), Bat Conservation Ireland (BCI) and others. In 2016, Oisín worked in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to develop a plant monitoring scheme for Ireland. During the Summer of 2016, he toured Ireland giving workshops for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. His most recent work has been as a photographer and author of the “Wildflowers in South Armagh”.

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