Common name(s): Bumblebee
A medium-sized to large bee. Workers generally in the range of 11 to 17mm. Queens of this species are among the largest bumblebees, reaching nearly 30mm! Mainly black. Wings tinted brown with dark edges. The legs and the end of the abdomen are covered with dense orange hairs.
This species is known from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and much of Southern China.
This species, surprisingly, was only discovered in Hong Kong in 1996. It has proven to be a lot more common than thought previously, and can be found throughout many areas in the New Territories, both in urban and countryside environments, and on Lantau. Strangely enough, I have never seen it in Hong Kong island or Kowloon, even among flowers it usually visits during its active season. Workers emerge during the end of winter and the start of spring. This emergence period differs every year, but the first workers usually appear between January and March. The activity period lasts all the way till mid-June, though the species is most common between March and May. Queens apparently emerge and begin searching for nest sites from September to December. I have only seen queens five times since 2006.
This bee frequently visits flowers of the various species of Rhododendron and Bauhinia blakeana, along with many other plants I was unable to identify. It frequently visits flower gardens in urban parks.
I have yet to find nests of this species. Unlike bumblebees in Europe and North America, it almost certainly does not nest in urban areas or parks. The queens I have seen searching for nest sites were all in remote areas at relatively high altitudes (by Hong Kong standards), so it is extremely unlikely that nests of this species would pose a threat to people (with the possible exception of hikers).