Actually, it was only today that he realised that there were different species of bumblebee - until I suggested this, he thought that the different colourations were due to genetic variations similar to those causing different hair colour in humans. He is now in a bit of an existential quandary as to whether different species of bumblebees have different first names. Furthermore, we have been having an ongoing 'discussion' for many years as to whether bumblebees live in nests in burrows or in thick vegetation (my suggestion) or in chalets. Presumably something like this .
The National History Museum has an interactive British bumblebee key which I've been having fun playing with today. Of course, you need to make sure you're not trying to identify a mimic such as the bumblebee hoverfly instead. Hoverflies can generally be distinguished from the insects they mimic by the false wing edge vein (one of the few things I remember from my zoology degree).Apparently, bumblebees are not doing too well in the UK at the moment, with three species already extinct according to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. There's a lot we can do to help, by practicing bumblebee friendly gardening. It seems that they like a more 'relaxed' style of gardening (very much in the ethos of the Inelegant Gardener). The favorite plants of the foggie-toddlers in our garden are the cardoons, which seethe with the insects in summer, but they seem to like pretty much any flower, including dahlias, snapdragons, sedum, and echinacea.
All of the bumblebees in the UK belong to the genus Bombus, (meaning 'booming') although cuckoo bumblebees used to be classified in a separate genus, Psithyrus (meaning 'murmuring'). They have an interesting lifecycle, with workers on average only living for four weeks. Their behaviour is quite complex, with communication by pheremones, which are used to pass on information, including marking which flowers have been visited, so that other bumbles can avoid them.
So, say "Hello, Delius" to the next foggie-toddler you see, and do what you can to help them.
This has been a public information announcement on behalf of the Foggie-toddlers Admiration Society.