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Tricolored Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius)

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

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Image Credit: Joy C., taken at the Heritage Garden in Colorado Springs, CO
Full-sized image of the Tri-Colored-Bumble-Bee Thumbnail image of the Tri-Colored-Bumble-Bee
Image Credit: Lyn H., taken in UT
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Image Credit: C. Wilson from CO
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The Tricolored Bumble Bee goes by many common names, but its trio of colors always elicit the same reaction: curiosity.

Updated: 07/25/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
While most bumble bees adhere to the typical yellow and black coloration, this particular species has a flourish of bright orange-red on the abdomen. The orange color is intense enough to be noticed by observers from a sizable distance. The abdominal color pattern is the same for each individual: one band of yellow, two orange-red, another yellow and then two bands of black. Another part of their body that may look orange are the pollen baskets on the hind legs, for these bumble bees collect it and make honey, just like the much smaller honeybee. The amount is not enough for commercial purposes, but it is enough for the bees. Pollen grains determine the color of the baskets, so they will change color depending on what type of flower the bumble bee is collecting from.

Nests are made in the ground and are lined with honeypots. Workers collect pollen and bring their full pollen baskets back to the nest where the pollen is made into honey. Larvae are fed honey until they develop into adults. Adults drink nectar and may also eat some of the honey in seasons of nectar scarcity. Drones also exist in this species, providing mates for the queen. Only newly developed queens will survive the winter. In spring, a queen will lay her fertilized eggs and populate her own nest with more workers and drones.

Buzzing Tricolored Bumble Bees can be found in gardens, parks, open fields, and meadows where they will forage for pollen. They are most active in the summer months.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Shiny insect icon
Insect stinger icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Apidae
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          Genus: Bombus
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            Species: ternarius
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Bombus ternarius
Other Name(s): Orange-Belted Bumble Bee, Red-Tailed Bumble Bee, Tri-Coloured Bumble Bee
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 18mm (0.35" to 0.70")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow; orange; black; red
Descriptors: flying; hair; shiny; buzzing; fuzzy; stinging; multicolored

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 9mm (0.4in) and 18mm (0.7in)
Lo: 9mm
Md: 13.5mm
Hi: 18mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Tricolored 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 Tricolored Bumble Bee. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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