How to identify: the Tree Bumblebee

Scientific name: Bombus hypnorum

Why are we looking for it?

It’s been a decade since the Tree Bumblebee arrived in the UK under its own steam, and in that time it has spread rapidly. Help us to map how far north and west it has spread and where it is now found.

It doesn’t appear to be damaging any of our native bee populations and is a very effective pollinator, so it’s a welcome new arrival.

Tree Bumblebee

Identification features

  • bees with different roles in the colony are different sizes
  • workers and males are around 10-16mm long
  • queens can be up to 22mm long
  • colour pattern of orange, black, white, from head to tail

Identification tips

Could be confused with…
Other bumblebees which may look similar at first, but look out for the unique colour pattern described above. No other bee has this pattern.

Where can I find it?
Across much of England, but few have been recorded so far in the northwest and southwest of England, and the rest of the UK.

Tree Bumblebees live in a wide range of habitats and are often seen in urban areas, visiting even the smallest of gardens.

When can I find it?
The large queen bees emerge from hibernation in early spring. The smaller workers and males can be seen throughout the spring and summer.


Tree Bumblebees eat nectar and pollen, preferring wide-open flowers such as daisies rather than narrow tube-like flowers such as foxgloves.

They nest in tree holes and other suitable structures including empty bird boxes. The queen lays eggs in spring. These hatch into worker bees, which are all female. The workers bring nectar and pollen to the nest to feed future broods of young. Sting-less males hatch during late spring and early summer, and mate with new queens. The new queens hibernate in autumn and winter, emerging the next spring to start a new generation of bees.

What does it do for us?

It’s a great pollinator, so is supporting our plant populations at a time when some other bumblebees are declining in numbers. It doesn’t seem to be causing any harm to our native bumblebees or other wildlife.

Interesting fact

The UK’s wildlife is constantly changing, with new arrivals turning up most years. If the climate continues to change, we can expect to see more and more species arriving and prospering. Although one or two highly invasive species do cause negative effects, it’s likely that most of these new species won’t have a negative impact on our native wildlife.


Think you've seen one?

Tree BumblebeeTake a photo and complete our simple online form to help us learn more about their distribution.

Submit a sighting

Where has it been seen?

UK mapExplore our interactive map and see where the Tree Bumblebee has been recorded so far.

Species Quest results map


Need help with identification?

Simply upload a picture of your find to iSpot or the Natural History Museum's Bug forum and an online community of experts and enthusiasts will do their best to identify it.

Visit the iSpot website

Visit the Bug forum on the Natural History Museum's website