British Wildlife Wiki

Bombus monticola is a species of bumblebee. It bears the common names bilberry bumblebee and mountain bumblebee. It is found in Europe.


Bombus monticola is a rather small, compact bumblebee with a broad head and a short tongue. The queens have an average length of 16 millimetres (0.63 in), and a wingspan of 32 millimetres (1.3 in). The corresponding lengths of the other castes are 12 millimetres (0.47 in) (worker), and 14 millimetres (0.55 in) (male). In the nominate subspecies the thorax is black, with exception of a yellow collar (quite broad on the males) and on the edge of the scutellum. The first, and the frontal part of the second terga (abdominal segments) are black, as the final tergite, but the rest of the abdomen is yellow to red. See however the Taxonomy section for other subspecies.


The bumbebee is normally a highland species, often found on bilberry, cranberry and cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). It is a pollen storer, that is actively feeding the larvae from a central pollen storage, rather than providing each larval cell with its own pollen container.


This species was long considered a form of Bombus lapponicus; hovever, it is now divided in a number of subspecies:

  • B. monticola monticola, the nominate subspecies, rather darkly coloured and present on the British Islands
  • B. monticola scandinavicus, the Scandinavian subspecies, is also a more or less dark form
  • B. monticola alpestris, a subspecies present in the Alps and the Balkans
  • B. monticola rondoui, living in the Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees, and
  • B. monticola konradini, living in the Apennines; both are light subspecies with a striking pattern; the thorax is almost zebra-striped in white, black and white.


Bombus monticola is found in most mountainous areas of Europe, as northern Scandinavia (mostly Norway and northern Sweden; the distribution in Finland is rather patchy, and confined to the area along the Norwegian border), the Alps, the Cantabrian Mountains, the Pyrenees, the Apennines and in the Balkans. It is also found in the lowlands in northern Norway and the Kola peninsula as on the British Islands. In Britain it lives on upland habitat, predominantly moorland. The major areas populated by this bumblebee are Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Welsh uplands, the Peak District, the North York Moors and the Scottish mainland.

It is a recent arrival in Ireland (first recorded in the 1970s). In Ireland it is a montane species (hence the name). It is restricted to upland areas of counties Antrim (in the Northern Ireland part of Ulster) and Dublin, Wicklow, Carlow and Wexford in the province of Leinster in the Irish Republic.