This bumblebee has an oblong head and a very long glossa (tongue), up to 15 millimetres (0.59 in), in some cases even 20 millimetres (0.79 in). In fact the tongue is so long that the bee often fly with it extended when collecting nectar. The queen is of a very variable size, body length between 19 millimetres (0.75 in) and 22 millimetres (0.87 in), wing span 35 millimetres (1.4 in) to 38 millimetres (1.5 in). The workers are almost as big, the larger ones overlapping the smaller queens. The colour is black with a yellow collar, a narrow yellow band on the scutellum, and a third yellow band on terga (abdominal segments) 1 and 2. The tail is white. Darker forms, with little yellow in their fur, are common.
The nest, normally containing 50 to 120 workers, can be built both over and below ground. Due to its long tongue this bumblebee mainly visits flowers with deep corollae, as deadnettles, ground ivy, vetches, clovers, comfrey, foxglove and thistles.
As most bumblebee males the males of this bumblebee patrol a fixed circuit marking objects along the route, about a metre above ground, with a pheromone to attract daughter queens. This behaviour was noted already by Darwin 1886 in his own garden.
This species is found in Europe up to 70ºN (in Scandinavia, south of the tundra). In the west its distribution reaches Iceland, where it probably has been introduced. In the south it extends to the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, to southern Italy (Calabria), northern Turkey and to the Mediterranean islands except Corsica, Sicily and (probably) Sardinia. It continues in northern and central Asia through Siberia to the Altai Mountains, and, in the south-east, to northern Iran. In 1885 it was introduced in New Zealand, where it still exists, however without being particularly common.
- ITIS Report
- Pierre Rasmont. "Bombus (Megabombus) hortorum (Linnaeus, 1761)". Université de Mons. http://zoologie.umh.ac.be/hymenoptera/pagetaxon.asp?tx_id=3035. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "Bombus hortorum the Garden bumblebee". Bumblebee.org. http://www.bumblebee.org/hort.htm. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- Benton, Ted (2006). "Chapter 9: The British Species". Bumblebees. London, UK: HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 351–355. ISBN 0007174519.
- Goulson, Dave Bumblebees: behaviour, ecology, and conservation p. 47
- Goulson, Dave Bumblebees: behaviour, ecology, and conservation pp. 219-220