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American Bumble Bee (Bombus pennsylvanicus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the American Bumble Bee



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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.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon
Helpful insect icon
Pollinator insect icon
Insect stinger icon
Striped or banded insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Apidea
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          Genus: Bombus
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            Species: pennsylvanicus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Bombus pennsylvanicus
Other Name(s): Bumble Bee
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 23mm (0.39" to 0.90")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow
Descriptors: stinger, fuzzy, hairy, furry, striped, stinging, flying, helpful, pollinator
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 10mm (0.4in) and 23mm (0.9in)
Lo: 10mm
Md: 16.5mm
Hi: 23mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the American Bumble Bee may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the American Bumble Bee. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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