Apis subterranea LINNAEUS 1758 (nec. L. 1758); Apis cinerea GEOFFROY 1785 (nec. SCHRANK); Colletes pilosus SPINOLA 1838; Colletes hirtus LEPELETIER 1825;
The largest of the nine British species in the genus, with a population that apparently differs slightly from the Continental race in both morphological and ecological respects. As a result, it has been recognised as a distinct subspecies, C. cunicularius celticus, by O'Toole (1974). More recently, major differences between the Continental and British populations have been found in the chemistry of the Dufour's gland secretions (Albans et al., 1980; Duffield et al., in Bell & Carde, 1984), raising the possibility that the British populations may be specifically distinct.
Historically, the species has an unusual distribution, being confined to a number of extensive coastal sand dune systems in north-west England and north-west and south Wales. It is often locally abundant; for example, at Kenfig dunes, West Glamorgan, there have been nesting aggregations of up to 18,000 nests (C O'Toole, pers. obs.). In 2011 a number of inland sites were recorded, with populations in, Shropshire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire.