Bombus terricola — Yellowbanded bumble bee

photo of Worker on wild bergamot (<em>Monarda fistulosa</em>)
Worker on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) — Jay Watson
The yellowbanded bumble bee is known from the eastern and northern U.S. and is considered rare throughout its range (Hatfield et al. 2015, Colla et al. 2011). Due to the drastic population declines since the mid-1990s, the USFWS was petitioned to review its status. It is considered a Species of Concern. Wisconsin has several recent observation records from northern and central counties. Older records are found scattered throughout the state.
The Ashton cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus bohemicus) is a nest parasite of yellowbanded bumble bee (Williams et al. 2014). The Ashton cuckoo has not been reported in Wisconsin since 1979.
The yellowbanded bumble bee, like other bumble bees, live in colonies composed of a single queen and female workers. Colonies start to produce new queens and males in the mid- to late summer. Only new, mated queens overwinter, emerging from diapause (a form of hibernation) in the spring. New queens are responsible for finding a new nest site, laying eggs, and for all of the foraging and care of the colony until the first workers emerge (Hatfield et al. 2015). Once the first workers emerge, the queen remains in the colony laying eggs. Bumble bees need areas that provide nectar and pollen from flowers throughout the duration of the colony life cycle, and suitable sites for nesting and for overwintering queens.

Status-Global/State:

Global: G3G4     Wisconsin: S1    

image showing reference locations of body parts

Identification:

  • Worker – Face and vertex black, sometimes intermixed with short pale hairs. Thorax with a black band or patch that extends past the wingpads and sometimes down to the abdomen; the patch size is variable but always with yellow in front of the wingpads. Abdominal segment T1 is black, T2-3 is yellow, and T4-6 is black. Some morphs have yellow hair or fringe on T5.
  • Queen/gyne – Similar to workers. Some morphs have yellow hair or fringe on T5. Queens/gynes are larger than workers and appear earlier in the season.
  • Male – Face and vertex intermixed. Thorax with a black band or patch that extends past the wingpads and sometimes down to the abdomen; the patch size is variable but always with yellow in front of the wingpads. Abdominal segment T1 is black, T2-3 are yellow, and T4-6 is black, T7 intermixed. Some morphs have a fringe of yellow on T6-7, and some have intermixed hairs on T4 and orange/red on T6-7 and on their legs.
  • Other distinguishing features – Short round face. Females have short and even hair, while males have long and shaggy hair.

Similar Wisconsin Species:

Similar bumble bee species in Wisconsin are the American bumble bee (B. pensylvanicus) and black and gold bumble bee (B. auricomus) (Colla et al. 2011, Williams et al. 2014).

Counties with verified B3 observations (in green).

Description of Habitat/Range:

Known habitats include wooded and wetland areas (Williams et al. 2014). Nests have been found mostly underground (Colla et al. 2011, Williams et al. 2014).

Nectar Plants

The yellowbanded bumble bee is a short-tongued species (Williams et al. 2014). Nectar plants include Asters, Crocus, Eupatorium (Joe-pye weed), Lonicera (honeysuckles), Melilotus (sweet clovers), Monarda (bee balms), Ribes (gooseberry/currants), Rosa (Roses), Rubus (blackberry), Salix (Willows), Solidago (goldenrods), Spirea (meadowsweet), Taraxacum (dandelion), Vaccinium (blueberry), and Vicia (vetches) (Williams et al. 2014, Colla et al. 2011). 

Click on the legend symbols for each type of bumble bee to add or remove them from the graph.
Data from verified B3 observations [updated 6/15/2020].

Flight Season:

In Wisconsin, observation records have mostly been made between May and September. Range-wide, queens start emerging in April and enter diapause by September (Colla et al. 2011).

Literature Cited:

Colla, S., Richardson, L. and Williams, P. (2011) Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States. A product of the USDA Forest Service and the Pollinator Partnership with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Williams, P.H., Thorp, R.W., Richardson, L.L. and Colla, S.R. (2014) The Bumble bees of North America: An Identification guide. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Hatfield, R., Jepsen, S., Thorp, R., Richardson, L. & Colla, S. 2015. Bombus terricola. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T44937505A46440206.

photo of Worker on wild bergamot (<em>Monarda fistulosa</em>)
Worker on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) — Jay Watson
photo of Body diagram: female
Body diagram: female — Elaine Evans
photo of Body diagram: male
Body diagram: male — Elaine Evans
photo of Worker on wild bergamot (<em>Monarda fistulosa</em>)
Worker on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) — Jay Watson
photo of Worker on rough blazing-star (<em>Liatris aspera</em>)
Worker on rough blazing-star (Liatris aspera) — Jay Watson
photo of Queen on apple tree (<em>Malus pumila</em>)
Queen on apple tree (Malus pumila) — Jay Watson
photo of Worker on rough blazing-star (<em>Liatris aspera</em>)
Worker on rough blazing-star (Liatris aspera) — Jay Watson
photo of Worker on rough blazing-star (<em>Liatris aspera</em>)
Worker on rough blazing-star (Liatris aspera) — Jay Watson
photo of Worker on wild bergamot (<em>Monarda fistulosa</em>)
Worker on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) — Jay Watson
photo of Male
Male — Ryan Brady
photo of Male
Male — Ryan Brady
photo of Male on milkweed
Male on milkweed — Jan Sharp
photo of Male on milkweed
Male on milkweed — Jan Sharp
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