The approximately 250 known species of bumble bee (genus Bombus northern hemisphere. This region also contains much of the world’s human population and the most intensive agricultural regions. Probably as a result of this, many bumble bees appear to be undergoing dramatic declines in range. This decline has drawn considerable media attention, which is to be encouraged, but this has led to some confusion. Articles in national newspapers have claimed that bumble bees are ‘threatened with extinction’ yet, paradoxically, they remain a common sight in gardens. Here I attempt to clarify our knowledge of the status of bumble bee populations. I shall focus particularly on the UK as an example, since distributions of bumble bees (and many other invertebrates) are better known here than elsewhere.