A Vestal Cuckoo Bee

I found this bumblebee in the garden a couple of days ago and it is not all that it seems. The wings are darkened and the back between the wings is almost devoid of hairs. In addition the buff, yellow, black and white patterning is a little unusual.

This is not a bumblebee, it is a cuckoo bee – the Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis).

Cuckoo bees are very closely related to bumblebees but behave rather differently – as their name suggest they behave the the bird of the same name. They lay their eggs in the nest of a bumblebee (in the case this species the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and then feed off the host’s food stores and are fed by the host’s worker bees.