Bombus sylvestris
– The Forest Cuckoo Bee

Bombus sylvestris male - image courtesy of Ian Beavis.  Common form has a white tail.Above - Bombus sylvestris male - image courtesy of Ian Beavis. Common form has a white tail.

Bombus sylvestris – the Forest cuckoo bee,  is found widely in Britain.  This cuckoo bumble bee species mainly attacks the nests of Bombus jonellus, Bombus monticola and Bombus pratorum.


Most commonly, males and females have one yellow stripe on the thorax and one on the abdomen. The tail is white with a black tip.  Males have a ginger tip to the abdomen.  In females, the tip of the abdomen is curled under the body.

Sometimes, a melanic form may be seen (black), and in Scotland, males may have a yellowish band to the tail, instead of black.

It has a fairly short tongue.

There are reports of Bombus sylvestris cohabiting with the host species, with both host and cuckoo producing offspring (Benton citing Hoffer and Kuepper& Schwammberger).



The Forest cuckoo bee forages on sallow, white deadnettler, bramble, lavender, globe thistle, white clover, buttercup and viper’s bugloss among others.

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