bumble bees

(Bombus spp.)

bumble bee (Bombus sp.)
Photo by Alfredo Colon

Bombus is a genus of very common, well-known, medium-sized to large hairy bees known as bumble bees. It occurs on every continent on the globe, though in Africa it is restricted to the north and in Australia it occurs only in Tasmania, where it was introduced. There are more than 250 bumble bee species worldwide, 46 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 19 species in Minnesota.

Bumble bees are truly social, having a single reproductive queen and multiple sterile workers. Most nest in the ground in abandoned rodent burrows, in leaf litter, or in wood piles. Queens live only one year. Old queens and workers are killed by cold weather in the fall, while new mated queens hibernate beneath the soil litter.


Bumble bees have robust, rounded bodies covered with long soft hair. They are black with usually yellow, rarely orange, contrasting markings. The upper surface of the abdomen is hairy. On the forewing the second submarginal cell is somewhat rectangular and about as long as the first. On the hindwing there is no jugal lobe.


Distribution Map



7, 24, 27, 29, 30, 82, 83.



Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  


Apocrita (wasps, ants and bees)  


Aculeata (ants, bees and stinging wasps)  


Apoidea (apoid wasps, bees, sphecoid wasps)  


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


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



Subordinate Taxa


American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus)

black-and-gold bumble bee (Bombus auricomus)

brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis)

common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens)

confusing bumble bee (Bombus perplexus)

Fernald's cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus fernaldae)

frigid bumble bee (Bombus frigidus) ?

golden northern bumble bee (Bombus fervidus)

half-black bumble bee (Bombus vagans)

Hunt’s bumble bee (Bombus huntii)

indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus insularis)

lemon cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus citrinus)

Nevada bumble bee (Bombus nevadensis)

northern amber bumble bee (Bombus borealis)

red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus)

rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis)

Sanderson’s bumble bee (Bombus sandersoni)

tricolored bumble bee (Bombus ternarius)

two-spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus)

yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola)






Common Names


bumble bees



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.’”


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 BefriendingBumblebees.com 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)

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Alfredo Colon
  bumble bee (Bombus sp.)    
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos






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Other Videos
  Bombus sp.
Agnieszka Graclik

Jan 19, 2009

probably Bombus terrestris

  Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.) pollinating Bog Bottle Gentian

Oct 25, 2009

A video I took on my digital camera (hence the modest clarity)- this is a gentian species endemic to bogs of the southeastern United States. The pollination process is interesting- the flowers develop, but the petals remain tightly closed. This means that the bumble bees (Bombus sp.) that pollinate the flowers have to pry the petals apart in order to get in to the flowers, which have copious amounts of pollen for them to eat. In the process they are unknowingly cross-pollinating the flowers, which ensures good seed-set. The flowers open in late Fall, towards the first frost and are probably one of the last sources of food before the Bumble bees settle in for Winter. Enjoy!

  Bombus sp. (bumblebee) visiting Impatiens capensis (jewelweed) - with bonus clumsiness
J. C.

Sep 20, 2017

Uploaded for discussion over at my blog:





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Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, MN

bumble bee (Bombus sp.)

MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings





Created: 4/6/2020

Last Updated:

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