yellow-banded bumble bee

(Bombus terricola)

Conservation Status
yellow-banded bumble bee
Photo by Margot Avey
  IUCN Red List

VU - Vulnerable


NU - Unrankable

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Yellow-banded bumble bee is a medium-sized bee but a small bumble bee. It occurs in the United States in the east and the Upper Midwest, and in southern Canada. It was once widespread and common, but its numbers have seriously declined since 2003. It remains widespread but is now uncommon or rare throughout its range except in southeastern Yukon and southwestern Northwest Territories, where it is thought to be still common. It is rare in Wisconsin, where it is given the conservation status of critically imperiled. It is uncommon in Minnesota, where it is not assigned a conservation status.

The female (worker) bee is to 916 (9 to 14 mm) in length and stout, 316 to ¼ (5 to 7 mm) wide. The hairs on the top and back of the head are entirely black. 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 face is short and round. It is mostly black but there are yellowish hairs between 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, about half as long as the all of the flagellomeres together. The first flagellomere is slightly longer than the third. The second is about as long as wide. The third is slightly longer than the second. The space below the compound eye (malar space) is smooth and shiny. The tongue is short.

The thorax is densely covered with relatively short hairs. It is always yellow in front of the wing pads (tegulae) and is usually entirely black behind the tegulae. Sometimes there is a yellowish band at the rear.

The abdomen has six abdominal segments and is densely covered with short hairs. The first segment is black, the second and third yellow, and the fourth through sixth black. Some individuals have a yellow fringe on the fifth segment.

The wings and legs are black.

The queen is similar but larger.

The male has seven abdominal segments; 13 antennae segments; and longer, shaggier hairs. The seventh abdominal segment has intermixed black and yellow hairs.




Queen: to ¾ (17 to 19 mm)

Male: ½ to (13 to 17 mm)

Worker: to 916 (9 to 14 mm)


Similar Species


A wide range of habitats, including woodlands and wetlands.




Queens are seen from late April to early September, workers from mid-June to mid-September.




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


Life Cycle


Overwintering queens emerge from hibernation in late April. They build underground nests.


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.

Records of yellow-banded bumble bee in western United States are thought to be mis-identifications of western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis).

The map at left includes counties where the yellow-banded bumble bee was recorded but probably no longer occurs.




Uncommon in Minnesota



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)  





Bremus terricola

Terrestribombus terricola


Common Names


yellow-banded 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.’”



A segment of the whip-like third section of an insect antenna (flagellum).


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.



On plants: An erect, leafless stalk growing from the rootstock and supporting a flower or a flower cluster. On insects: The basal segment of the antenna.



A small, hardened, plate, scale, or flap-like structure that overlaps the base of the forewing of insects in the orders Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Homoptera. Plural: tegulae.

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

    yellow-banded bumble bee      





Bombus terricola
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab
  Bombus terricola  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Bombus terricola - 2020/06/21
Bombus mystax

Jun 25, 2020

BBW #64786
Inaturalist :

  Bombus terricola - 2019/07/31
Bombus mystax

May 24, 2020

Bombus terricola cleaning itself.
Lebel-sur-Quévillon, July 31th, 2019

  Yellow-Banded Bumble Bee (Bombus terricola) warming up in the morning
Ben Armstrong

Jul 7, 2020

The bee was sluggish (likely due to 15C temperature) and only began to move around after I had disturbed it. For iNaturalist observation:

  Bombus terricola gathering pollen from coreopsis verticillata
Elementi Foods

Apr 24, 201

Inspired by the Beecology Project I started observing native pollinators in the flowers around the house and in the garden. I was pleasantly surprised to find a native species of bee living in the neighborhood. Bombus terricola, like all of our native pollinators are in decline and we need to do our part to help. Doing our part is as simple as planting native flowering plants. Native plants are extremely low maintenance and easy to grow.




Visitor Sightings

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  Margot Avey

Location: Lake Harriet Trial Gardens in Minneapolis

yellow-banded bumble bee







Created: 8/4/2021

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