Sunday, March 7, 2010

Which Bumblebee Is That?

This is one of a series of short notes on recognizing commonly seen bumblebees.

Just noticed the great bumblebee illustration on the cover of the book, 'Peterson First Guide to Insects of North America.'

According to Paul Williams' online key, this looks like it ought to be Bombus pensylvanicus, the American Bumblebee. This species can usually be recognized by the single yellow band at the front of the thorax, together with broad yellow bands on the 2nd and 3rd abdominal segments. The individual illustrated has the first abdominal segment all yellow, while many females (queens and workers) of this species have only a narrow yellow band at the back of this segment.

For many of us it seems easier to become familiar with insects that have a common name, like the American Bumblebee, in addition to its latin name (Bombus pensylvanicus). Many North American bumblebees don't seem to have been given common names yet. But here are about 20 exceptions:

Common Eastern Bumblebee - Bombus impatiens
Black and Gold Bumblebee - Bombus auricomus
Rusty Patch(ed) Bumblebee - Bombus affinis
Yellow Banded Bumblebee - Bombus terricola
Southern Plains Bumblebee - Bombus fraternus
Brownbelted Bumblebee - Bombus griseocollis
Redbelted Bumblebee - Bombus rufocinctus
Lemon Cuckoo Bumblebee - Bombus citrinus
Fernald Cuckoo Bumblebee - Bombus fernaldae
Indiscriminate Cuckoo Bumblebee - Bombus insularis
Ashton Cuckoo Bumblebee - Bombus ashtoni
Two-spotted Bumblebee - Bombus bimaculatus
Confusing Bumblebee - Bombus perplexus
Tricolored Bumblebee - Bombus ternarius
Half-black Bumblebee - Bombus vagans
Yellow-faced Bumblebee - Bombus vosnesenskii
Northern Amber Bumblebee - Bombus borealis
Yellow Bumblebee - Bombus fervidus
American Bumblebee - Bombus pensylvanicus
Franklin's Bumblebee - Bombus franklini
Western Bumblebee - Bombus occidentalis
Sanderson Bumblebee - Bombus sandersoni
Variable Cuckoo Bumblebee - Bombus variabilis

You can buy this beginner's insect field guide, with the cover illustration shown above, at

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