It can be separated from the other common Bumblebees by the lack of a buff, yellow or white markings on its rear end. It is a surface-nesting bumblebee which constructs its nest in cavities such as old mouse runs and among mats of moss in lawns.
Nests can contain up to 200 workers. Only the young fertilised queen survives the winter, having hibernated in a protected place such as a hole or under moss. She emerges in spring, either starting up her own colony or taking over an existing one. The queen makes pots of wax and pollen into which the first eggs are laid. After about three weeks the first infertile female workers emerge and take over the nectar and pollen-gathering and cell building, while the queen concentrates on egg laying. The larvae are reared on pollen and nectar. The males appear in summer. Towards the end of this season, both male and female bumble bees fly out and mate. Males are allowed to re-enter the nest after mating and soon die. The fertilised queen starts searching for a safe place to hibernate but all the workers and the old queen will die with the first frosts or spell of cold weather.
This species is a long-tongued bee which prefers flowers with a long flower tube such as red and white clover, lavender and members of the Labiate family. You can also attract this bee to nest in your garden with a bee nest box. For information about these threatened insects there is a good site for The Bumblebee Conservation Trust.