The Mountain Bumblebee is expanding its range in Ireland – help us track its movement

Bombus monticola queen_Steven Falk  Bombus monticola male (Michael O'Donnell)  Bombus monticola (Tim Melling)

The Mountain Bumblebee was first recorded in Ireland in the 1970’s from the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains, and then from Northern Ireland in the 1980’s (Co. Tyrone and from a range of locations on the Antrim Coast).  It is assumed it arrived into Wicklow/Dublin from populations in Wales, and into the North from populations in Scotland. The Mountain bumblebee is a habitat specialist, generally being associated with bogs/heaths at higher altitudes where it likes to feed on Blaeberry/Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). See the distribution map.

Based on recorded sightings, it hasn’t fared so well in the North. Since 2000, it has only been recorded from the area around Cushleake Mountain and Breen Wood in north Antrim. It is undoubtedly more common in the North than currently recorded, as there are large areas of very suitable habitat. If you’re in suitable areas with Blaeberry have a look and see if you can find new populations.

In contrast, the southern populations are very healthy and have been expanding southwards. It reached the Blackstairs Mountains in Wexford/Carlow in 2004 and was recorded from the area around Brandon Hill in Co. Kilkenny in 2012.

In April 2015, we had our first Co. Waterford record. A queen was found by Oisin Duffy and Mairead Crawford close to the Waterford coast (Woodstown). The habitat isn’t very suitable so it was probably blown in from a healthy population nearby. It’s be great to hear if it’s in any areas with Bilberry in south Kilkenny or east Waterford. If it reaches the Comeraghs there should be plenty of good habitat and it might eventually make its way down to the south west!

Please keep your eyes peeled and let us know if you spot this species. It has yellow bands and black hairs on its face, but is most distinctive due to the fact that more than half its abdomen is covered in red hairs. Submit sightings