American Bumble Bee

Photo by: Bryan Reynolds

0 Species
There are around 25,000 known species of bee, though there are likely more that have yet to be discovered.

Bombus pensylvanicus

The American Bumble Bee, Bombus pensylvanicus, is one of the most well-known bees. Unfortunately, this beloved bee is seeing a rapid decline in population.Bombus pensylvanicus are broadly distributed across the United States – the range covers the eastern United States and well past the Rocky Mountains, but sightings have dramatically dropped to a smaller area of concentration. The most likely causes for this decline are agricultural development, which threatens their preferred habitats of tallgrassand shallow burrows. Parasitic infection has also been noted as a threat.

This Bumble Bee is an enthusiastic pollinator, frequenting Asters, Thistles, Vetches, St. John’s Wort, and Sunflowers, among many others. Bumble Bees are knownto use their jaws and wings toshake pollen out of flowers in a process called buzz pollination. Some plants keep their pollen in special structures that are not open and must be vibrated to release the pollen through a small pore (fun videos here!

American Bumble Bees are a colonial species, meaning they live together in a group working cooperatively. Females can lay eggs without males, which is calledhaplodiploidy, with unfertilized eggs developing into males. Fertilized eggs result either in female workers or Queens. Bees traditionally forage close to home, but have been recorded flying in a 1.5 miles radius around their hives (a location skill established by trial and error).

American Bumble Bees are typically less than 2 centimeters in length. All members of both sexes have black heads, with a black stripe dividing the yellow thorax. The abdomen is primarily yellow, though this varies: The most distinctive features of American Bumble Bees are their heads. They are long, with long tongues and long antennae. The legs are also black, with short hair. Predators are deterred by the American Bumble Bee’s stinger and many species without stingers (such as beetles, moths, and other bee species) mimic the bumble bee to fool predators into thinking they too are dangerous.

Written by: Robert Gibson, an undergraduate Environmental Studies student at the University of Oklahoma