I've been taking lots of photos of Bumble Bees recently. Here's a few that have me stumped, and one firstly that I'm reasonably happy about.
1. I think this is male Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus Vestalis) due to the yellow on the edge of the white tail and the faint yellow midriff band. On the brambles near my house this seems to be the commonest bumble bee. Odd that a parasite should outnumber the host, but there we are.
2. Again on brambles in a local wood. Two shots of a completely smooth bee apart from a yellow frill. I think this is just a completely hairless worker bee of a common species, but only because I cannot find an alternative explanation.
3. And two more from the same area. Again, I think this may be a bumble bee with hair loss, but it may not be a bumble bee at all. I have no idea.
4. This was taken at Thursley Common in Surrey. A dark bee with a greyish white tail. On close inspection it has a faint collar and midriff so I suspect it is just a variant of a common bumble bee. There were at least two like this.
5. From a recent visit to Hatfield Forest. It looks like a common bee except for the profuse yellow on the head. I thought at first it might be Early Bumble bee but on looking in my book Barbut's Cuckoo bee also has lots of yellow on the head. So I'm confused, again.
6. And finally another from Hatfield Forest, and all black one. I couldn't get round the right side of the bush to get a decent photograph so sadly these will have to do. My book indicates there is a form of male Field Cuckoo Bee that is black, but I don't think there is enough on this to confirm an id.
Having spent a few decades watching birds and being pretty confident about identifying any British bird on a good view, its fun to go back to the start with a new group of creatures. I haven't yet got a feel for what is variation within a common species and what marks out a different species. And I still haven't been able to point at a bee and say "thats a Garden Bumble Bee" event though I'm sure they are all around.