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American Bumble Bee (Bombus pennsylvanicus)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the American Bumble Bee, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 1/30/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  American Bumble Bee  
Picture of American-Bumble-Bee

The iconic yellow and black American Bumble Bee is a classic summertime friend doing tremendous amounts of good for plants and virtually no harm to people.

Similar to Golden Northern Bumblebee (Bombus fervidus) but larger, the American Bumble Bee has black coloring just behind the wings. One to three stripes of yellow appear on its abdominal segments. They have hairs all over their yellow and black bodies. The back legs have pollen baskets (pouches that are used to hold pollen grains that are collected from flowers). If a bee is having a good day, you will be able to see the full baskets, overflowing with orange or yellow pollen. They do have smooth stingers and can use them repeatedly, but they are not aggressive and are unlikely to take notice of people and pets that aren't attacking them or their nest.

Bumble bees are industrious pollinators. They forage for pollen and nectar all over meadows, parks, open fields, gardens and forests. The type of flower they collect from is immaterial. Some flowers hide their pollen inside the anther (male part of the flower) and Bumblebees are able to shake it out by rapidly vibrating their bodies and the anther. This motion creates a loud buzzing noise with a slightly higher pitch from the buzz heard in flight. This special extraction method is called buzz pollination. They can also use their tongues to collect nectar from flowers. They may use some of that flower nectar to make small amounts of honey, placing it in small honey pots; they do not create large honeycombs for long-term storage like Honeybees. Their small amounts of honey are not stored for more than a few days though, as it is eaten quickly, and it is not harvested for human consumption.

They are beneficial insects, helping to pollinate crops, orchards and garden plants. Sadly, it is one of many types of bees whose numbers are declining for a variety of reasons. Habitat loss, pesticide use, pollution and mites are reducing the number of bee colonies in the U.S.. Without these small workers, most plants would need to be pollinated by hand. Birds and wind pollination are usually specific to certain plants and cannot be relied on to do the work of a population of bees.

Picture of the American Bumble Bee
Picture of the American Bumble Bee

American Bumble Bee Information

Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common Name: American Bumble Bee
Scientific Name: Bombus pennsylvanicus
Other Name(s): Bumble Bee

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Hymenoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Apidea
      Arrow graphic Genus: Bombus
       Arrow graphic Species: pennsylvanicus

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 10 mm to 23 mm (0.39 inches to 0.897 inches)
Identifying Colors: black; yellow
Additional Descriptors: stinger, fuzzy, hairy, furry, striped, stinging, flying, helpful, pollinator

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming;Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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