The large garden bumblebee has most often been recorded as associated with extensive areas of meadowland supporting a large number plants with long-corolla flower types, notably those belonging to the plant families Lamiaceae and Fabaceae. It is one of a number of bumblebee species to have undergone a drastic reduction in range and abundance as a result of the loss of this habitat in the modern agricultural landscape. It is a very difficult species to separate from its sister species B. hortorum, except (in Britain) the all-black form known as variety harrisellus. The number of workers of Bombus ruderatus per nest is often noted as being particularly high. These may be both yellow-banded or all black from the same nest, which is built underground.
Although this bumblebee was considered to be very common in southern England at the beginning of the 20th century, by the 1970s it was already considered a scarce but widespread species. The decline has continued since, with fewer than 10 confirmed post-1980 sites for this bee, mostly in East Anglia. There are no confirmed post-1960 records for Wales and no records for Scotland or Northern Ireland. This bee is widespread but declining in Europe.
In Great Britain this species is classified as Nationally Scarce.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Loss of extensive, herb-rich grasslands, especially those containing good stands of plants of the families Lamiaceae and Fabaceae, through agricultural intensification.
Non-native forms of Bombus used for pollination in greenhouses may be a threat, but this requires further investigation.
Some known populations are on SSSIs.
Action plan objectives and targets
Maintain populations at all known sites.
Ensure that there are 20 viable populations within the historic range by 2010, by enhancing population sizes at all known sites, or by re-establishing the species at suitable localities.
If necessary to support 4.2, establish an ex-situ programme to provide material for re-introductions.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Where appropriate, include the requirements of the species when preparing or revising prescriptions for agri-environment schemes. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
Site safeguard and management
Where possible, ensure that all occupied and nearby potential habitat is appropriately managed by 2008, for example through SSSI or agri-environment scheme management agreements. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
Ensure that the habitat requirements of the species are taken into account in relevant development policies, plans and proposals (ACTION: CCW, NE, LAs)
Ensure that this species is included in site management documents for all relevant SSSIs. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Consider notifying sites supporting viable populations of the large garden bumblebee as SSSIs, where this is necessary to secure long-term protection and appropriate management. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Species management and protection
Consider establishing a captive breeding population with a view to undertaking re-introductions. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
If necessary to maintain 20 viable populations, undertake habitat restoration and/or re-introductions at suitable former or potential sites. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Advise landowners and managers of any sites with extant or restored populations of the presence of this species and the importance of beneficial management for its conservation. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
As far as possible, ensure that all relevant agri-environment project officers, and members of regional agri-environment consultation groups, are advised of locations of this species, its importance, and the management needed for its conservation. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
Future Research and Monitoring
Undertake surveys to determine the current status of the bee by the year 2005. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Promote ecological research to establish the habitat requirements of this species, the factors limiting breeding success at existing sites, dispersal ability and appropriate re-introduction methods. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Encourage further research to identify the extent to which the introduction of non-native forms of Bombus used for pollination in greenhouses may be a threat to the species. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
Establish a regular monitoring programme for this species. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Pass information gathered through survey and monitoring of this species to a central database so that it can be incorporated into national databases. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Communications and Publicity
Where appropriate, use this species to promote appreciation and conservation of threatened species of bee and wasp and their habitats. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans - Volume IV: Invertebrates (March 1999, Tranche 2, Vol IV, p217)
Visit the ARKive website to view images and further information relating to this species