The more I film bumblebees, the more I discover I don't know about their identification. That's why we are hard at work planing an interactive guide to the 20 or so British species. One of the rarest is Bombus distinguendus... or the Great Yellow Bumblebee to give its unscientific name. These beautiful creatures used to be quite widespread in the UK, but now are sadly confined to the very north of Scotland, including parts of the Outer Hebrides. That is the best place to go to film them and I am pleased to say that a trip there last weekend delivered the goods.
The preferred habitat of the Great Yellow is machair. This is exquisite flowering coastal meadow, that yields a succession of different nectar sources through the season. Currently knapweed is fairly widespread and the bees are feasting on it. Although few and far between, there was little problem identifying B. distinguendus: yellow bottom, mostly yellow top apart from a thin black stripe across the thorax.
Other bumbles remaining on the target list include B. jonellus and B. soroeensis. These are MUCH less easy to identify, being only subtly different from much more common species such as B. lucorum. Fortunately our friends at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust have generously offered to scrutinize the footage and pronounce on ID.
Watch this space.