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Bombus Latreille
BUMBLEBEES
Humble bees

Life   Insecta   Hymenoptera   Apoidea   Apidae
Subgenera: Alpigenobombus, Alpinobombus, Bombias, Bombus, Cullumanobombus, Kallobombus, Megabombus, Melanobombus, Mendacibombus, Orientalibombus, Psithyrus, Pyrobombus, Sibiricobombus, Subterraneobombus, Thoracobombus

Bombus pyrosoma, Flame-bodied Bumble Bee
© Copyright John Ascher, 2006-2014 · 10
Bombus pyrosoma, Flame-bodied Bumble Bee

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Bombus griseocollis m
Copyright Hadel Go 2014 · 10
Bombus griseocollis m
Bombus griseocollis Brown-belted Bumble Bee
© Copyright Hadel Go 2014-2015 · 10
Bombus griseocollis Brown-belted Bumble Bee

Bombus pensylvanicus, female PaDIL www.padil.gov.au2
Laurence Packer · 9
Bombus pensylvanicus, female PaDIL www.padil.gov.au2
Bombus pensylvanicus, female PaDIL www.padil.gov
Laurence Packer · 9
Bombus pensylvanicus, female PaDIL www.padil.gov

Bombus sitkensis, female, face
Smithsonian Institution, Entomology Department · 9
Bombus sitkensis, female, face
Bombus sitkensis, female, side
Smithsonian Institution, Entomology Department · 9
Bombus sitkensis, female, side

Bombus sitkensis, female, top
Smithsonian Institution, Entomology Department · 9
Bombus sitkensis, female, top
Bombus sitkensis, female, wing
Smithsonian Institution, Entomology Department · 9
Bombus sitkensis, female, wing

Bombus fervidus, female, face 2012-07-25-12.36.59 ZS PMax
© Copyright source/photographer · 9
Bombus fervidus, female, face 2012-07-25-12.36.59 ZS PMax
Bombus fervidus, Male antenna face hair
Deana M. Crumbling · 9
Bombus fervidus, Male antenna face hair

Bombus fervidus, W-face
Deana M. Crumbling · 9
Bombus fervidus, W-face
Bombus fervidus, W-malar space
Deana M. Crumbling · 9
Bombus fervidus, W-malar space

Bombus rufocinctus, female, face
Smithsonian Institution, Entomology Department · 9
Bombus rufocinctus, female, face
Bombus rufocinctus, female, side
Smithsonian Institution, Entomology Department · 9
Bombus rufocinctus, female, side

Bombus impatiens, Common Eastern Bumble Bee
© Copyright John Ascher, 2006-2014 · 0
Bombus impatiens, Common Eastern Bumble Bee
Bombus citrinus, Lemon Cuckoo Bumble Bee
© Copyright John Ascher, 2006-2014 · 8
Bombus citrinus, Lemon Cuckoo Bumble Bee

Bombus griseocollis, Brown-belted Bumble Bee
© Copyright John Ascher, 2006-2014 · 0
Bombus griseocollis, Brown-belted Bumble Bee
Bombus fervidus, Golden Northern Bumble Bee
© Copyright John Ascher, 2006-2014 · 0
Bombus fervidus, Golden Northern Bumble Bee
Kinds
Overview
Bumblebees are a popular and relatively well studied group. Their scientific name is Bombus. Experts differ in how many kinds exist. The Bombus site of The Natural History Museum, London, lists 238 species among over 2,800 scientific names that have been used at one point or another to describe their diversity. Geographically their species richness is centered in Asia, Europe, and the New World. For North America, Mexico and Central America, we recognize 59 kinds, some of which are just distinct forms of highly variable species.


To understand their natural history, it is important to know that bumblebees have a very unusual genetic system that allows mated females to control the sex of their eggs. Daughters develop from fertilized eggs; sons, from unfertilized ones. Unmated females cannot fertilize eggs and can only produce sons. All other bees and insects in the Hymenoptera group have this genetic system. It is call haplodiploidy.


Most bumblebee queens mate and then start a nest by themselves in the spring. They first produce worker bees that help the colony grow. These workers, like all bee, ant and wasp workers, are female. Although some may lay unfertilized eggs, most do not. They work in the nest, defend it, and forage for pollen and nectar. In contrast to workers, reproductive females and males are typically produced only at the end of the nesting season. They do not contribute to their colony's wellbeing for they neither forage nor help in any other ways. Reproductive females are typically larger than workers and are called queens. Males are called drones, reflecting their work habits, which are none. Unlike females, which can inflict a painful sting and should not be handled, drones don't have a stinger to defend even themselves. They gain protection by threat alone, looking like their more dangerous sisters.


Most kinds of bumblebees are social, with queens, workers and drones. Others, like those placed in the scientific group Psithyrus, have no workers. Their females try to invade a nest of another bumblebee, kill its queen, and usurp her throne. You can tell which lifestyle a female leads by her rear legs, which are only adapted for pollen collection in the kinds that have workers.


The following material taken with permission from: Mitchell, T.B. 1962. Bees of the Eastern United States, Volume II. North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station. Tech. Bul. No.152, 557 p.

This is a native group of social bees in which the average size is considerably greater than in the honeybees. Both sexes are conspicuously and quite densely hairy insects. Females resemble the honeybee in having the outer surface of the hind tibiae bare and polished, with a marginal fringe of hairs forming the pollen basket or corbicula. In the males also the hind tibiae tend to be somewhat flattened, rather smooth and sparsely pubescent on the outer surface. In the front wing the marginal cell is rather short, separated from the apex of the wing by about its own length. In the hind wing the jugal lobe is absent. Usually there is a quite distinct and often extensive malar space separating the lower end of the eye from the mandible. The gonostyll of the male genital armature are very short in the majority of species, extending only slightly beyond the tips of the gonoeoxites and penis valves.

In this region these bees are annually social with respect to the organization of the colonies. Newly fecundated queens hibernate during the winter, each one starting a new colony in the spring. The earlier broods that result from the nest-building, foraging and egg-laying activities of each queen are workers of small size which assume much or all of the foraging and nest-building functions. Thereafter, as the numbers increase, there is an increase in body size of succeeding broods of workers. As the season progresses these more nearly approach the queen in size, and the distinction between the two castes in some species becomes obscure. Finally males and true queens are produced, which mate, and the cycle is repeated.

The species of Bombus occurring in North America do not represent a homogeneous group. They have affinities with those that occur in the Old World and those to the south. In consequence, a natural classification can be achieved only by inclusion of the species of these other regions in comprehensive taxonomic studies. Milliron (1961) indicates that there is evidence of a polyphyletic origin of the group, and therefore he recognizes three separate genera, including a total of five subgenera. All of the other numerous subgenera that have been proposed in the past are being reduced to synonymy. Although it is possible to distinguish these three genera according to the male genital armature, it is very difficult to do so according to the characteristics of the queens or workers. His work is still incomplete, and it has been deemed expedient to avoid the difficulties that would result if an attempt were made to separate these genera in this manual. Thus all the species here are assigned to Bombus in its original, allinclusive sense, recognizing the fact that a division into smaller genera is probable in the future. The following table indicates the classification proposed by Milliron, with respect to the species of this area:

Bombus - affinis and terricola.

Megabombus
Bombias - nevadensis and n. auricomas.
Megabombus - borealis, fervidus and pennsylvanicus.

Pyrobombus
Cullumanobombus - fraternus, griseocollis and rufocintus.
Pyrobombus - bimaculatus, impatiens, perplexus, sandersoni, ternarius and vagans.

In the males, species assigned to Bombus may be recognized by the flared, dorsoventrally compressed and cup-shaped heads of the penis valves. In Megabombus these structures are straight, either simple or with abrupt, apically dilated heads, while in Pyrobombus they are conspicuously hooked, the curve of the hook directed toward the mid line.

The following keys to the species of Bombus queens, workers and males have limitations due to the degree of variability in these bees. This is especially true of color patterns of the pubescence which are used extensively in the keys. To employ other characters would necessitate the use of more obscure features difficult to describe, or to observe or interpret. Moreover, to account for all the possible variations in color patterns would greatly increase the length and complexity of the keys. In consequence the form in which they appear is a compromise, and it is hoped and believed that they will facilitate identification of the great majority of specimens. A margin of error, however, should be recognized, and where accuracy of identification is of paramount importance, submission of specimens to experienced specialists is recommended.


Identification
Bumblebees & Mimics, North America - for general audiences.

Bombus, Eastern North America - for bee experts.


Names
Scientific source:

Links to other sites

References
  • Gauld, Ian D. and Barry Bolton (Eds.) 1988. The Hymenoptera. British Museum (Natural History). Oxford Univeristy Press, New York. ISBN 0-19-858521-7.
  • Michener, Charles D. 2000. The Bees of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. ISBN 0-8018-6133-0.

Acknowledgements
I thank Sharon Ballew for technical support in developing the Bumblebee pages; Sharon Ballew, Becca Haynes and numerous other University of Georgia undergraduates for help photographing specimens; Nancy Lowe for illustrations; Cecil Smith, Georgia Museum of Natural History, and Terry Griswold, USDA Bee Lab, Logan, Utah, for loaning us specimens; and Sam Droege, USGS-BRD, for financial support and encouragement.

Supported by

Hosts · map
FamilyScientific name @ source (records)
Asteraceae  Cirsium @ I_JSA (3)

Dugaldia hoopsii @ I_ADG (1)

Solidago altissima @ I_DJV (1)

Solidago @ I_JP (1)

Verbesina alternifolia @ I_JP (5)
Crassulaceae  Sedum rhodanthum @ I_STA (1)
Herndon, j.d.  1154 @ JRYA__OLYM (2)

1348 @ JRYA__OLYM (4)

1424 @ JRYA__OLYM (1)

1449 @ JRYA__OLYM (1)

1476 @ JRYA__OLYM (1)

1537 @ JRYA__OLYM (2)

1594 @ JRYA__OLYM (1)

1639 @ JRYA__OLYM (1)
Lamiaceae  Lamium purpureum @ I_JP (4)
N. rice  1031 @ JRYB__SHEN (1)
_  Asteraceae @ I_JSA (2)

Cynareae @ I_JSA (1)

Fabaceae @ I_JSA (1)

George @ I_WRR (2)

bee @ I_JONA (1)

Associates · map
FamilyScientific name @ source (records)
Pentatomidae  Euthyrhynchus floridanus @ I_JP (8)

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Following served from Peter Wirtz, Personal Web Site, www.invasive.org
   
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Following served from Edward L. Manigault, Clemson University Donated Collection, www.invasive.org
   
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Following modified from CalPhotos
   
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CalPhotos     Photo Database

 

Number of matches : 10
Query: SELECT * FROM img WHERE ready=1 and taxon like "Bombus sp.%" and (lifeform != "specimen_tag" OR lifeform != "Animal") ORDER BY taxon

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Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumble Bee
ID: 0024 3291 2007 0139 [detail]
Jo-Ann Ordano
© 2000 California Academy of Sciences

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumble Bee
ID: 1073 3283 1658 0130 [detail]
Charles Webber
© 2002 California Academy of Sciences

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumble Bee
ID: 9187 3302 4013 0131 [detail]
Jo-Ann Ordano
© 2000 California Academy of Sciences

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumblebee
ID: 0000 0000 0805 0586 [detail]
© 2005 Charles Reeder

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumblebee
ID: 0000 0000 0805 0587 [detail]
© 2005 Charles Reeder

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumblebee
ID: 0000 0000 0805 0588 [detail]
© 2005 Charles Reeder

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumblebee
ID: 1111 1111 2222 0625 [detail]
© 2005 Joyce Gross

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bee
ID: 0000 0000 0708 0038 [detail]
© 2008 Joel Ledford

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
ID: 0000 0000 0708 0039 [detail]
© 2008 Joel Ledford

Bombus sp.
Bombus sp.
Bumblebee
(shown with Ipomoea tricolor )
ID: 0000 0000 0514 1467 [detail]
© 2014 Marily Woodhouse

Using these photos: A variety of organizations and individuals have contributed photographs to CalPhotos. Please follow the usage guidelines provided with each image. Use and copyright information, as well as other details about the photo such as the date and the location, are available by clicking on the [detail] link under the thumbnail. See also: Using the Photos in CalPhotos .   


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