ABSTRACT It is essential for central place foragers, such as bumblebees, to return reliably to their nest. Bumblebees, leaving their inconspicuous nest hole for the first time need to gather and learn sufficient information about their surroundings to allow them to return to their nest at the end of their trip, instead of just flying away to forage. Therefore, we assume an intrinsic learning programme that manifests itself in the flight structure immediately after leaving the nest for the first time. In this study, we recorded and analysed the first outbound flight of individually marked naïve bumblebees in an indoor environment. We found characteristic loop-like features in the flight pattern that appear to be necessary for the bees to acquire environmental information and might be relevant for finding the nest hole after a foraging trip. Despite common features in their spatio-temporal organisation, first departure flights from the nest are characterised by a high level of variability in their loop-like flight structure across animals. Changes in turn direction of body orientation, for example, are distributed evenly across the entire area used for the flights without any systematic relationship to the nest location. By considering the common flight motifs and this variability, we came to the hypothesis that a kind of dynamic snapshot is taken during the early phase of departure flights centred at the nest location. The quality of this snapshot is hypothesised to be ‘tested’ during the later phases of the departure flights concerning its usefulness for local homing.