Common Carder Bee

Common Carder Bee: Bee I.D.

In the last few years, I’ve become fascinated by the bees and other insects that visit my garden. Sometimes I like to just sit and watch as they go about their business among the flowers. It feels very relaxing and deeply peaceful.

There are several different species of bee that use the garden. Honeybees come here frequently. There’s usually a good number of buff-tailed bumblebees too, and just occasionally, a red-tailed bumblebee. And there’s the bumblebee pictured above – the common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum).

Common carder bee
Common carder bee on Caryopteris x clandonensis

I’d noticed these bees back in spring, visiting the white deadnettle and other early flowers. They moved about too much for me to get a really good look at them, or a clear photograph that showed their markings. Recently, I saw a couple of them enjoying the freshly-opened flowers of a sedum on a sunny afternoon. It made a good opportunity to photograph them.

Having photographs of the bees made it easier to identify them by comparing them to images on websites about bees. Even then, it can be very hard to be sure about identification, because many bees look very similar.

Honeybee on Sedum
For comparison: honeybee on sedum

To make it easier to see the differences between the commonest bees in my garden, I’ve posted a couple of comparison photos. Above is the honeybee. (The western or European honeybee, Apis mellifera.)

You can see that the honeybee’s colouration is quite like that of the common carder bee. But the carder is much hairier and a stronger ginger colour. (The common carder is also a bit bigger than the honeybee.)

If you look at the tails of the two bees, you’ll notice that the tail of the common carder has hairy stripes in black and white. While the honeybee also has a stripey look to its tail, they are quite different. Here the black areas of the tail look smooth and slightly shiny, with just very short and sparse pale-coloured hairs.

Bumblebee on a blue scabious flower.
For comparison (2): Buff-tailed bumblebee (I think!)

The other comparison (above) is the very common buff-tailed bumblebee. (Which can be distinguished from the white-tailed bumblebee by that very narrow orangey stripe at the top of its tail.) It looks quite different from the common carder bee, having a mostly black thorax with an orangey-yellow stripe just below the head, and another on the abdomen, just below the waist. (Mostly hidden here by the wings.)

One of my reasons for wanting to know which bees use my garden is so that I can try to make sure I have a range of flowers to suit them.

The common carder bees have been busy at the caryopteris flowers, even though the shrub has almost finished flowering for the year. Like a lot of other bees, they’re keen on the flowers of sedums at the moment, as well as the last of the catnip flowers. (When there’s not a cat sleeping in it!)

Now I must go and read up on what other flowers they like and what sorts of habitats suit them. I’m hoping for lots more of them next year!

Common Carder Bee
Common Carder Bee – it has a hairy face!

29 thoughts on “Common Carder Bee: Bee I.D.

    1. It’s a slow process though, with plenty of room for mistakes, LOL! But I’d like to know and it should make it easier to have the most suitable flowers on offer – a bee snack-bar!!


    1. Thank you Indira! I’m getting more into gardening for wildlife because it’s one small thing I can do to help other living things and the environment in general. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I can’t find any information about the Carder bees in the US. It seems they’re a British (and maybe European) species. They’re certainly cute! I’m rather fond of bumble bees generally, and I love that yu’r studying them as a way to ensure planting things they like. Bee identification is so hard for me, but of course part of the reason is that I don’t devote the time to it. Of course, there are estimates that about 800 species of bees are native to Texas, so I shouldn’t feel too bad about my confusions!

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    1. Wow, with 800 species it must be very difficult to work out which is which! For me, making the garden pollinator-friendly feels like something useful that I can do in my little space. So many wild flowers and habitats are being lost through intensive farming that it makes other smaller pieces of land, like gardens and roadside verges etc. more necessary as spaces for wildlife.


    1. I think a lot of gardeners are now trying to provide habitats for wildlife – it certainly brings extra interest and joy to the garden! (And I love bees! πŸ™‚ )


  2. Beautiful bee pix Ann! The Carder Bee (the one in the top pix?) is really a pretty bee. Reading Shoreacres comments, 800 species! No wonder I don’t know what I have in my yard (my handy-dandy Florida Audubon Field Guide to Fla only mentions a few bees but lots of different kinds of wasps)! Eish! And exactly what is a catnip flower? I think my Sophie cat would like to check that out!

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    1. I loved this bee too and was glad to be able to see it properly at last. The catnip we have is mostly Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ and comes highly recommended by Strathy (and his sister Ellie sometimes likes it too). It grows well in well-drained soil and sunshine. πŸ™‚

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      1. Sophie actually gets a little wonked with the stuff. She does like a cut up green olive which also acts somewhat like catnip so we give her that on occasion instead. Who knew?

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      2. I do wonder what catnip is really doing to cats! The reaction seems to vary a lot. Strathy loves it and can get very playful but his sister Ellie isn’t usually interested but occasionally sits beside it.

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      3. I agree. Sophie loses control of her paws and gets really upset about it. And that is just with the smell from a toy. I have to be careful about getting her toys as lots of times catnip is hidden in them. Eish! this is like raising a kid! HaHa!

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    1. The sedum (which has a new name that I can neither pronounce nor spell yet) is wonderful for bees at this time of year. We have different varieties which flower at slightly different times, giving them a bit longer to enjoy it.


  3. I do know the buff tailed as white tailed bumbles which visit frequently. The pictures of your sedum with visitors are ace, I must check my Autumn Glory, now in flower, to see who comes to feed. Never seen Carders here.

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    1. Thanks Jill! πŸ™‚ I don’t think I’ve seen the white-tailed bumbles but then they are so difficult to tell apart! Probably there are more kinds of bees in our gardens than we realise but it’s not easy to spot them…makes me want to try though!


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