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American bumble bee

American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus)
Photo © Barbara C. Williams

Features and Behaviors

Color refers to “hair” color. Queens and workers are black on the top of the head. At least the front section of the thorax and at least the front half of the abdomen are yellow. There is a black band between the wing bases. The tail is black. Males may show some yellow on the top of the head. The majority of the male’s abdomen is yellow with brown or black at the tail tip.

American bumble bees are long-tongued bees. Vetches (Vicia spp.), clovers (Trifolium spp.) and goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are among the many plant species this bee visits for pollen and nectar. It nests on the surface of the ground. Queens are active from May through September. Workers are active from June through September. Males are active from July through October. These bees are important pollinators of the flowers that they visit to collect nectar and pollen. Bumble bees are eusocial insects. Their life cycle includes egg, larva, pupa and adult stages. Only the fertilized queen overwinters from a colony. In the spring, she selects a nest site and constructs the nest, which is lined with plant material. The first brood raised consists of all workers (females). The workers do all the jobs of the hive except egg‐laying. Late in the year both males and queens are produced. Males mate with queens in the fall.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae

Illinois Status: common, native