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This bumblebee has an oblong head and a very long glossa, about 15 mm (0.59 in), and in some cases even 20 mm (0.79 in). The tongue is so long, the bee often flys with it extended when collecting nectar. The queen is variable in size, with body lengths between 19 and 22 mm (0.75 and 0.87 in), and wing spans from 35 to 38 mm (1.4 to 1.5 in). The workers are almost as large, the larger ones overlapping the smaller queens. Their 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 above and below ground. Due to its long tongue, this bumblebee mainly visits flowers with deep corollae, such as deadnettles, ground ivy, vetches, clovers, comfrey, foxglove, and thistles.
As with most bumblebees, the males of this species 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 by Darwin 1886 in his own garden.
This species is found in Europe as far north as 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 southeast, to northern Iran. In 1885, it was introduced in New Zealand, where it still exists, but without being particularly common. It is also found in America, namely Florida. In Britain, it is widespread through the entire region, including Orkney and Shetland.
- ITIS Report
- Pierre Rasmont. "Bombus (Megabombus) hortorum (Linnaeus, 1761)". Université de Mons. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "Bombus hortorum the Garden bumblebee". Bumblebee.org. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- Benton, Ted (2006). "Chapter 9: The British Species". Bumblebees. London, UK: HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 351–355. ISBN 0007174519.
- Dave Goulson Bumblebees: behaviour, ecology, and conservation p. 47
- Goulson, Dave Bumblebees: behaviour, ecology, and conservation pp. 219-220