One of the first insects to be seen in spring each year is the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). Although known as the buff-tailed bumblebee the name can be misleading as it is not the only bumbleebee with a buff tail! However, the two honey coloured bands, one on the thorax and one on the abdomen help you pin it down.
The queens, which hibernate, are large, bulky insects and can be up and about from February onwards but they can also be seen at any time during the winter if we have extended mild weather. Only the queens hibernate, the workers and drones die off in the autumn. The queen carries fertile eggs over the winter and lays them in early spring, then she sets about feeding them herself. They can be regular visitors to any winter flowering plant you may have in your garden. They will visit a wide range of flowers but they have a very short tongue and so will often bite through the base of the corolla on long tubed flowers to get to the nectar. You can also often find them sun-bathing on a leaf.
Bumblebees are lovely, furry creatures and pretty harmless too. They add another dimension to your garden wildlife and should be encouraged.