black-and-gold bumble bee

(Bombus auricomus)

Conservation Status
black-and-gold bumble bee
Photo by Gerry Garcia
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


not listed


not listed


Black-and-gold bumble bee is common, large, colonial bumble bee. It occurs in North America east of the Rocky mountains. It is common in southern Minnesota, less common in the north. It is one of the largest bumble bees in Minnesota.

The female (worker) bee is 11 16 to ¾ (18 to 20 mm) long. The hairs on the head are mostly black. The top of the head (vertex) is densely pitted (punctate) in the middle and smooth at the sides, and there is a dense band of yellow hairs at the rear. There are two large compound eyes, one on each side of the head, and three small simple eyes (ocelli) in a triangular pattern at the top of the head between the compound eyes. The middle ocellus is larger than the the two lateral ones. The tops of the small (lateral) ocelli are distinctly below a virtual line (supraorbital line) with the top of the compound eyes. The antennae have 12 segments consisting of one basal segment (scape), one small connecting segment (pedicel), and ten more segments (flagellomeres). The scape is long, half as long as the all of the flagellomeres together. The first flagellomere is as long as the next two combined. The space below the compound eye (malar space) is smooth and shiny. The tongue is long.

The thorax has three segments and is densely covered with relatively short hairs. The first segment is yellow, the second is black, and third is black with a very narrow yellow band at the rear.

The abdomen has six segments and is densely covered with relatively short hairs. The first segment is black but may have some yellow hairs on the sides. The second and third segments are entirely yellow. Segments 4 through 6 are entirely black.

Females are variable in color. Most are as described above. On light-colored individuals, the third thoracic segment is partially or entirely yellow, and the first abdominal segment has some yellow hairs on the sides or has yellow sides with some yellow hairs in the middle.

The wings are dark brownish tinged at the base, lighter tinged approaching the tip.

The legs are black.

The queen is similar but larger.

The male (drone) is similar but has 7 abdominal segments and 13 antennae segments. The thorax is yellow with a round black spot in the center. Abdominal segments 1 through 3 are yellow. The compound eyes are large.




Male: to ¾ (17 to 20 mm)

Worker: 11 16 to ¾ (18 to 20 mm)

Queen: ¾ to 1 (20 to 25 mm)


Similar Species


Grasslands, open areas




May to September




The colonies are small, usually having about 35 workers.


Life Cycle


The queen lays eggs individually in separate cells.


Larva Food


Larvae are fed both nectar for carbohydrates and pollen for protein.


Adult Food


Adults feed mostly on nectar but also on some pollen.


Distribution Map



4, 24, 27, 29, 30, 82.







Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  


Apocrita (wasps, ants and bees)  


Aculeata (ants, bees and stinging wasps)  
  Clade Anthophila  


Apoidea (apoid wasps, bees, sphecoid wasps)  


Apidae (bumble bees, honey bees, and stingless bees)  


Apinae (honey, bumble, long-horned, orchid, and digger bees)  


Bombini (bumble bees)  


Bombus (bumble bees)  
  Subgenus Bombias  

Some authors separate bumble bees and orchid bees into a the subfamily Bombinae. NCBI follows this classification. Other authors follow Michener (2007) and include those groups in the subfamily Apinae with the bumble bees and honey bees.






Common Names


black and gold bumble bee

black-and-gold bumble bee


Bumble Bee or Bumblebee?

In common usage the word bumblebee is written at least as often as the as the term bumble bee. In scientific usage, however, there is a “correct” form. The rule is: if the second part of the term accurately reflects the organism’s identity then it should stand alone. If it does not, then it should be concatenated. In short, “If true, then two.”

The Entomological Society of America follows the convention suggested by R. E. Snodgrass, author of Anatomy of the Honey Bee, when assigning common names to insects. Snodgrass states, “If the insect is what the name implies, write the two words separately; otherwise run them together. Thus we have such names as house fly, blow fly and robber fly contrasted with dragonfly, caddisfly and butterfly, because the latter are not flies, just as an dandelion is not a lion and a silverfish is not a fish. The honey bee is an insect and is preeminently a bee; ‘honeybee’ is equivalent to ‘Johnsmith.’”



On insects, a hardened plate on the face above the upper lip (labrum).


Malar space

In Hymenoptera, the space, equivalent to the cheek, between the bottom of the compound eye and the base of the mandible.



Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.



The upper surface of an insect’s head.

Bumble Bee Identification

Elaine Evans, a PhD candidate in the Department on Entomology at the University of Minnesota, the University of MN Bee Lab, and have published a handy identification chart of Minnesota bumble bees. Handy, that is, for entomologists. Indispensable for amateur naturalists in Minnesota or anyone wanting to identify the bumble bee in their photo. Click on the images below to download the PDFs.


Guide to MN Bumble Bees I

Guide to MN Bumble Bees I (Females)



Guide to MN Bumble Bees II

Guide to MN Bumble Bees II (Males)


Visitor Photos

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Margot Avey

    black-and-gold bumble bee      

Alfredo Colon

    black-and-gold bumble bee      

Gerry Garcia

    black-and-gold bumble bee      





Bombus auricomus
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab
  Bombus auricomus  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Bombus auricomus
Eric Preston

Published on Jul 2, 2013

Bombus auricomus on Echinacea pallida at The Prairie Enthusiasts' Mounds View Grassland, Iowa County, Wisconsin

  B. auricomus
Joseph Napper

Published on Jul 23, 2015

Black and gold bumble bee

  Bombus auricomus on Bee Balm 2018
margy stewart

Published on Jan 12, 2019

Here Black-and-Gold Bumble Bees find nectar in Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa), one of the few species of wildflower to bloom during the drought summer of 2018. Bee Balm refused to bloom this year as it usually does in the upland native prairie, but it did bloom in our Creek Field, where we have a bottomland prairie restoration going on. B. auricomus likes prairie, so I was honored that they came to our prairie restoration!

  Bombus foraging returning to nest
Karl Foord

Published on Mar 12, 2015




Visitor Sightings

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  Margot Avey

Location:Lake Harriet Trial Gardens in Minneapolis

black-and-gold bumble bee  
  Mike Kaselnak

Location: Eden Prairie

3 are feeding on wild geranium

  Judy K.

Location: Shrewsbury, MA

Found on ground, on leaves near shed.

  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, MN

black-and-gold bumble bee  
  Gerry Garcia

Location: Lyndale Park, Minneapolis, MN

black-and-gold bumble bee  






Created: 8/20/2019

Last Updated:

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