The briefest of sojourns into the garden this morning was rewarded with my first bumblebee sighting of the year. The bumblebee did not stay long, there is little by the way of interest in the garden to warrant it's attention, a single small scabious (Scabiosa cultivar) being the only flowering plant.
The bumblebee was on limited impression, all black except for a thin red tail. Which narrows the ID: Cf Bombus lapidarius Or Cf Bombus ruderarius. The two species are told apart by the colour of the hairs on their pollen basket. Red hairs in B. ruderarius, black hairs in B. lapidarius.
Within both species queen and worker are identical in colouration but differentiated by size. However, the queen and workers of B. ruderarius do not emerge until May where as the queens of B. lapidarius emerge in March and April, and the workers between May until August.
This would strongly suggest that the bumblebee in the garden this morning was more than likely a queen bee of the species B. lapidarius.
Pinchen, B. J., (2006). A Pocket Guide to the Bumblebees of Britain and Ireland. (2nd Edition). Forticula Books. Lymington.