The Red-shanked carder bee resembles a smaller, rounder, version of the common and widespread Red-tailed bumble bee, Bombus lapidarius, but has red hairs (not all black) on the corbicula. Keys and general biology are found in Sladen (1912), Free & Butler (1959), Alford (1975) and Prŷs-Jones & Corbet (1991).
This species has seen a catastrophic decline in its abundance and distribution throughout the British Isles since the first half of the century. Direct comparison with the map published in the 1980 Atlas (Anon. 1980) is difficult as much of the data supporting the Atlas map is not present in the IBRA archive. All such unsubstantiated data is not shown on the map. The current map does, however, reflect the intense recording activity of the past three years (1998-2000) under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Bumblebee Project. The strongest modern populations correspond with the larger areas of unimproved grasslands, for instance on the Hebridean Isle of Tiree, although the species may survive in areas of least intensified farmland.
The species ranges from southern Fennoscandia south to the Mediterranean, and east to Russia, western Siberia and northern Kazakhstan (Lfken, 1973). It is declining throughout Western Europe.