tricolored bumble bee

(Bombus ternarius)

Conservation Status
tricolored bumble bee
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Tricolored bumble bee is a common, small, colonial, ground-nesting bumble bee.

The female (worker) bee is 5 16 to ½ long. The thorax and abdomen are densely covered with short hairs. The thorax is mostly yellow with a conspicuous black T-shaped mark. There are six abdominal segments. The first and fourth abdominal segments are yellow, the second and third are orange, and the fifth and sixth are black. The head is black with a few yellow hairs, especially around the base of the antennae. The tongue is short.

The queen is similar but longer and plumper.

The male (drone) is similar but has longer hairs, a yellow head with a few black hairs, and yellow on the sides of the fifth and sixth abdominal segments.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Queen: to ¾

Male: to ½

Worker: 5 16 to ½

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus) has a black dot, not a T-shaped mark, on the thorax.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Various

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

May to October

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

Bumble bees will sting to protect themselves or their nest. The stinger is not barbed and the bee can sting multiple times.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

In April the queen emerges from hibernation and searches for a new nesting site. A suitable site is typically a small rodent burrow or a natural crevice in the ground. After locating a site the queen will forage for pollen and nectar to feed her future offspring. She then lines the nest with a waxy substance that she secretes, lays eggs fertilized in the previous season, and incubates the eggs.

After the eggs hatch the newly emerged larvae, all female workers, pass through three stages before pupating and finally emerging as adults. The workers assist in expanding the nest, foraging for food, and incubating the eggs. The queen continues laying fertilized eggs throughout the summer. In late summer she begins laying unfertilized eggs which will develop into drones.

In early fall the queen lays the last of her fertilized eggs. These develop into queens. The new queens forage for food, build up body fat, and mate with drones. In mid-fall the old queen and the rest of the colony dies, leaving only the new queens.

The queens overwinter individually under a few inches of loose soil or leaf litter.

 
     
 

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, especially flowers of blackberries, raspberries, goldenrods, blueberries, bilberries, and milkweeds.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

7, 24, 29, 30.

 
  9/4/2020      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common in northern Minnesota

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  
 

Suborder

Apocrita (wasps, ants and bees)  
 

Infraorder

Aculeata (ants, bees and stinging wasps)  
  Clade Anthophila  
 

Superfamily

Apoidea (apoid wasps, bees, sphecoid wasps)  
 

Family

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

Subfamily

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

Tribe

Bombini (bumble bees)  
 

Genus

Bombus (bumble bees)  
  Subgenus Pyrobombus  
       
 

Some authors separate bumble bees and orchid bees into a the subfamily Bombinae. NCBI34 follows this classification. Other authors follow Michener (2007)35 and include those groups in the subfamily Apinae with the bumble bees and honey bees.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

orange-belted bumble bee

tricolored bumble bee

tricolored bumblebee

 
       

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
(Females)

Guide to MN Bumble Bees I (Females)

 

 

Guide to MN Bumble Bees II
(Males)

Guide to MN Bumble Bees II (Males)

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

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Dan W. Andree

 
 

a nice colored bumble bee

 
    tricolored bumble bee      
 

Luciearl

 
 

Tricolored bumblebee on sneezeweed

 
    tricolored bumble bee      
           
 

They are loving the Creeping Charlie. One of the few flowers growing in abundance.

 
    tricolored bumble bee      
           
 

I haven't seen one since 2018, but still have this large goldenrod patch.

 
    tricolored bumble bee      
           
 

… bumbles are preferring Goldenrod over coneflowers. At the bee fest.

 
    tricolored bumble bee   tricolored bumble bee  
 

Barney

 
 

out walking looking for may flowers and heard this bumble and managed to get pic. Was on 5/5/2020 first bee here for the season.

 
    tricolored bumble bee      
 

Bill Reynolds

 
 

Was at the Old Treaty Crossing Festival Huot MN today. Came across a large patch of Cut-Leaf Coneflower which all abuzz with Honey Bees and Tricolored Bumble Bees.

 
    tricolored bumble bee and cut-leaved coneflower   tricolored bumble bee and cut-leaved coneflower  
           
 

There is a pretty good sized Bull Thistle patch near where I live that the bees and butterflies are working pretty hard.

 
    tricolored bumble bee      
           
 

There were quite a few Tri-colored Bumbles working the Tansy patch.

 
    tricolored bumble bee   tricolored bumble bee  
 

Crystal Boyd

 
 

Queen

 
    tricolored bumble bee      
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
    tricolored bumble bee      
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Tricolored Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Tricolored Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius)  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

Share your video of this insect.

 
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Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.
 
 

 

 
     
     
       
       
 
Other Videos
 
  Bombus ternarius - Tricolored Bumble Bee
birdingnwisc
 
   
 
About

Published on May 15, 2012

No description available.

 
  Tricolored Bumble Bee (Apidae: Bombus ternarius) Queen
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on May 6, 2011

Hooray! Fertile Queen Bumble Bees finally emerged from their long, long, long winter's nap this week! Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (06 May 2011).

 
  Tricolored Bumble Bee (Apidae: Bombus ternarius) Worker on Leaf
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Aug 15, 2010

Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (14 August 2010).

 
  Tricolored Bumble Bee (Apidae: Bombus ternarius) on Dandelion
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on May 12, 2010

Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (12 May 2010).

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Dan W. Andree
7/6/2020

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

a nice colored bumble bee

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Luciearl
9/3/2020

Location: Cass County

Tricolored bumblebee on sneezeweed

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Luciearl
5/20/2020

Location: Cass County

They are loving the Creeping Charlie. One of the few flowers growing in abundance.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Barney
5/5/2020

Location: north of Virginia, MN

out walking looking for may flowers and heard this bumble and managed to get pic. Was on 5/5/2020 first bee here for the season.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Luciearl
Summer 2018

Location: Cass County

I haven't seen one since 2018, but still have this large goldenrod patch.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Luciearl
8/3/2018

Location: Lake Shore, MN

… bumbles are preferring Goldenrod over coneflowers. At the bee fest.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Bill Reynolds
8/26/2017

Location: Red Lake Co MN

Was at the Old Treaty Crossing Festival Huot MN today. Came across a large patch of Cut-Leaf Coneflower which all abuzz with Honey Bees and Tricolored Bumble Bees.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Suzy
7/17/2017

Location: Tabernash, CO

Collecting pollen on grass weed seed.

 
  Bill Reynolds
9/5/2015

Location: Pennington Co.

There is a pretty good sized Bull Thistle patch near where I live that the bees and butterflies are working pretty hard.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Bill Reynolds
8/5/2003

Location: St Louis Co MN

There were quite a few Tri-colored Bumbles working the Tansy patch.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Bill Reynolds
8/4/2003

Location: St Louis Co MN

There were quite a few Tri-colored Bumbles working the Tansy patch.

tricolored bumble bee

 
  Crystal Boyd
5/29/2013

Location: La Salle Lake SNA

tricolored bumble bee

 
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
   

 

 

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