lemon cuckoo bumble bee

(Bombus citrinus)

Conservation Status
lemon cuckoo bumble bee
Photo by Wayne Rasmussen
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N4N5 - Apparently Secure to Secure


not listed


Lemon cuckoo bumble bee is a common, small, cuckoo bumble bee. The female has a black spot on the thorax and an entirely black abdomen. The male also has a black spot on the thorax but the first three abdominal segments are yellow.

The female (worker) bee is to 13 16 in total length and ¼ to wide at the abdomen. The head is covered with copious long, erect, black hairs. In the area between the large compound eyes (vertex) these are interspersed with short yellowish hairs. The hairs on the back of the head are yellow. The space between the lateral simple eyes (ocelli) and the margin of the vertex is two times that between the ocelli and the compound eyes. The first and third antennal segments are considerably longer than the second, which is slightly shorter than wide. The thorax is covered with dense, copious, yellow hairs except for a black spot in the center. The black spot is more or less bare and does not reach the base of the wings. The abdomen is entirely black, and is densely covered with short, erect, black hairs. The legs are mostly covered with black hairs except for pale hairs on the last foot (tarsal) segments, which have pale hairs. There is no pollen basket (corbicula).

The male bee is smaller, ½ to in total length and 3 16 to ½ wide at the abdomen. The first three segments of the abdomen are yellow, covered with dense, erect, yellow hairs.




Male: ½ to

Female: to 13 16


Similar Species






May to October




The lemon cuckoo bumble bee has no pollen baskets and does not collect pollen. It invades the nests of mostly common eastern bumble bee but also half-black bumble bee and two-spotted bumble bee. It kills the queen and usurps the colony and its worker bees.


Life Cycle




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



7, 24, 29, 30.







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 Psithyrus  

In the not-too-distant past, bumble bees were often placed in the in the subfamily Bombinae, and sometimes in the family Bombidae. Today, both of these terms are considered taxonomically invalid, though they can still be found in use on the Web.






Common Names


lemon cuckoo 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.’”



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



The last two to five subdivisions of an insect’s leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. Plural: tarsi.



The upper surface of an insect’s head between the compound eyes.



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)

Visitor Photos

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Wayne Rasmussen


Male lemon cuckoo bumble bee on butterfly milkweed

    lemon cuckoo bumble bee      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos





Bombus citrinus
  Bombus citrinus  
Bombus citrinus
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab
  Bombus citrinus  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  B. citrinus
Joseph Napper

Published on Aug 27, 2015

The Lemon Cuckoo Bumble Bee




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  Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Joy Park

lemon cuckoo bumble bee  
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