The are several hundred species of bee in the UK, with 25 bumblebee species. Bees can be split into two groups: social bees and solitary bees. All bumblebees and honeybees are social bees. Examples of solitary bees are the leaf cutter bee and the tawny mining bee.

The bee species below can all be found in Suffolk:

Buff tailed bumblebee

  • Largest bumblebee to visit gardens. Queens 20mm long and worker bees 15 mm.
  • Nests in empty mouse holes.
  • Seen Feb-Oct
  • Short tongued so feeds on open flowers like daisies.

Common carder bee

  • A type of bumblebee.
  • Queen 18mm, workers 15mm.
  • Nests above or under ground, using old bird or mouse nests.
  • Seen April-Oct.
  • Feeds on red clover, nettle, knapweed, fruit trees.

Early bumblebee

  • Queen 17mm, workers 14 mm
  • Varied habitat: parks, fields or scrub.
  • Seen March-July
  • Short tongue so feeds on open flowers.
  • Feeds on white clover, lavender, sage, thistles and daisies. 


Garden bumblebee

  • Raises middle legs when threatened.
  • Nests on or just above ground.
  • Queen 20mm, workers 16mm.
  • Longest tongued bumblebee (15mm) so prefers deep flowers like red clover, foxglove, cowslip, vetch, lavender.

Hairy footed flower bee

  • Not a bumblebee.
  • Nests in soft mortar in walls or occasionally in soil.
  • Male has long hairs on legs and feet.
  • Seen Feb-June.
  • Feeds on primroses, comfrey and dead nettle.

Honey bee

  • Not a bumblebee.
  • Only one species of honey bee.
  • Usually nests in man made hives.
  • Produces large quantities of honey.
  • Seen March-Sept.

Leaf cutter bee

  • A solitary bee (not a bumblebee).
  • Cuts disks out of leaves and carries them back to nest to build cells.
  • Nests in hollow plant stems and old walls.
  • Seen April-Aug.

Tawny mining bee

  • A solitary bee.
  • Nests underground in lawns, flowerbeds or farmland.
  • Creates a volcano-like mound of soil above burrow.
  • Seen April-June.
  • Feeds on fruit tree pollen.


Red tailed bumblebee

  • Nests in walls.
  • Also known as 'stone bumblebee'
  • Short tongued so prefer daisies, dandelions and thistles which they can land on and feed.

Help bees in your garden: