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A big black, beautiful bumblebee!

Bombus (Melanobombus) eximius on fuchsias. Doi Inthanon, Thailand

I came across this very attractive bumblebee feeding on Fuchsia flowers in the gardens of the King chedi on Doi Inthanon, northern Thailand. It really is a lovely bumblebee; the beautiful, dark brownish black body is offset by hairy golden legs and honey-coloured wings. The scientific name for this bumblebee is ‘Bombus (Melanobombuseximius formerly in subgenus Rufipedibombus‘! Known to her fans perhaps, “as the pollinator formerly known as Rufipedibombus”! I’ll just call her: Bombus (Ml.) eximius. This bumblebee has a wide distribution in Asia, from Tibet to Taiwan. Melanobombus species often occur at altitude, for example in alpine meadows, which accounts for their dark melanic colouration.

Bombus (Melanobombus) eximius on fuchsias. Doi Inthanon, Thailand

The striking king chedi (or Buddhist stupa) was built to honour King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and is known as Naphamethinidon (นภเมทินีดล), in Thai. There is a Queen chedi on the opposite peak. The really great thing about this location, from the point of view of insects, is that the whole area is covered with flowers; it extremely well-tended and cared for, with lots of staff working on the flower beds and so on.

King and Queen chedis on Doi Inthanon, Thailand

The location is however, relatively high, being not far from the summit of Doi Inthanon – the highest mountain in Thailand – which has an elevation 2,565 m (8,415 ft). So the site is often quite cold and cloudy, particularly in the winter. I took these pictures on 6 May last year (2017), but it was still fairly cool, particularly when the sun went in behind a cloud. Nevertheless, it did not seem to bother this well-clad bumblebee, who was nectaring on fuchsias.

Bombus (Melanobombus) eximius on fuchsias. Doi Inthanon , Thailand

B. eximius is described as being ‘a relatively short-headed species with a large body size’. It certainly is big, with queens – which I think this might be – up to 28–29 mm in length. Its tongue is described as being of medium length. (Reference 2)

Bombus (Melanobombus) eximius in flight. Doi Inthanon, Thailand

First named by a British entomologist, Frederick Smith (1805 – 1879), I was very happy to get a look at such a nice specimen – there were other more worn individuals – and will certainly look for this bumblebee again if I ever find myself back on this lovely mountain.

King chedi steeple on Doi Inthanon, Thailand

References

  1. Corlett, R. T. (2001). Pollination in a degraded tropical landscape: a Hong Kong case study. Journal of Tropical Ecology17(1), 155-161.
  2. Williams, P., Tang, Y., Yao, J., & Cameron, S. (2009). The bumblebees of Sichuan (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Bombini). Systematics and Biodiversity7(2), 101-189.

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

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