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The early bumblebee or early-nesting bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) is a small bumblebee with a wide distribution in most of Europe and parts of Asia.
The queen is black with a yellow collar (the band around the front of the thorax), another yellow band on the first tergite (abdominal segment), and red colouration on the tail (terga 5 and 6). The male has a wider yellow collar, yellow colouration on both terga 1 and 2, and a red tail, also. The workers are similar to the queen, but often with less yellow colouration; usually the abdominal, yellow band is more or less missing. The head of the bumblebee is rounded, and the proboscis is short. The bumblebee is quite small; the queen has a body length of 15–17 mm (0.59–0.67 in), the worker 10–14 mm (0.39–0.55 in), and the male 11–13 mm (0.43–0.51 in).
It flies early (hence its name), usually from March to July, but in milder climates, as parts of southern England, it can appear as early as February. However, the large earth bumblebee is normally even earlier.
Its habitat is very wide ranging, including fields, parks, scrubland, and sparse forest.
It is found in most of Europe, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. It is, however, uncommon in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and the Balkans. On the steppes of southern Russia and Ukraine, it is totally absent. In Asia, it is found in the mountains of northern Turkey, northern Iran, and uncommonly in Siberia west of the Yenisei River.
A second generation is common in warmer climates (as most of England; in Scotland the species usually has only one brood yearly), often established in existing, but declining nests. Colonies rarely contain more than 100 individuals. It is a pollen storer, that is, it stores pollen in wax pots or empty cells and feeds each larva individually, rather than storing the pollen in pockets in the larval cells.
- Benton, Ted (2006). "Chapter 9: The British Species". Bumblebees. London, UK: HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 338–342. ISBN 0007174519.
- "Bombus pratorum, the Early bumblebee". Bumblebee.org. Retrieved 2013-01-24.
- Bombus pratorum The Garden Safari
- "Kleine Wald- bzw. Wiesenhummel - Bombus pratorum" (in German). Wildbienen.de. Retrieved 2013-01-24.
- Pierre Rasmont. "Bombus (Pyrobombus) pratorum (L., 1761)". Université de Mons. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
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