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Bombus impatiens

What do they look like?

Common eastern bumblebees have short, pale yellow hairs on their thoraxes and black hairs on their heads, abdomens, and legs. Queen bees are 17-21 mm in length, males are 12-17 mm, and workers are 8.5-16 mm. Male bees have yellow faces and females have black faces. Common eastern bumblebees have medium length tongues. They can be confused with eastern carpenter bees. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    8.5 to 21 mm
    0.33 to 0.83 in

Where do they live?

Common eastern bumblebees, Bombus impatiens, are one of the most common bumblebees in North America. They can be found along the east coast from Ontario to Florida. Their range stretches west to North Dakota and eastern Texas. They are more common in the eastern part of their range. Common eastern bumblebees are used for greenhouse pollination in California and Mexico. (Colla, et al., 2011)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Common eastern bumblebees live in a broad habitat, including cities, suburbs, and farmlands. They can be found in grasslands, forests, and marshes too. They live in cold temperate (northern United States) to warm subtropic (southern Florida) climates. Common eastern bumblebees build their nests underground. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017)

  • These animals are found in the following types of habitat
  • temperate

How do they grow?

Up to six eggs are laid in a nest. Each egg is laid in its own cell. Common eastern bumblebee larvae develop for 25-35 days inside of their cells. Larvae undergo metamorphosis before leaving their cells as adults. (Cnaani, et al., 2002)

How do they reproduce?

Queen bees are the only female bees to mate. (Cnaani, et al., 2002)

Colonies of common eastern bumblebees live for one year. Each colony is founded by a single queen bee. The mated queen bees spend the winter inactive, then come out in the spring. Queen bees will build the colony by themselves. After the first bunch of worker bees hatch, they will care for the young instead of the queen. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017; Cnaani, et al., 2002; Colla, et al., 2011)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Queen bees produce offspring from May until November.
  • Breeding season
    Common eastern bumblebees mate in the summer.

How long do they live?

Queens of common eastern bumblebees live for a maximum of one year. Workers and males live for a much shorter time period. (KELEMEN, et al., 2019)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 12 months

How do they behave?

Common eastern bumblebees can live in surprisingly large groups. Older generations of common eastern bumblebees hunt for pollen during the day. Younger generations care for the larvae. While bees hunt for nectar and pollen, they pollinate the plants that they land on. In the nest, pollen and saliva are chewed together to produce honey. Male bees do not do any work. Common eastern bumblebees are active for an oddly long part of the year. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017; Jandt and Dornhaus, 2009)

How do they communicate with each other?

Like other social bees, common eastern bumblebees communicate using touch, vision, chemicals called pheromones, and wing vibrations. Bees communicate about the safety of the nest, where food is, and what they should do. Like other bees, common eastern bumblebees can see ultraviolet light. (Jandt and Dornhaus, 2009)

What do they eat?

Common eastern bumblebees eat the nectar and collect the pollen of a lot of different types of plants. They have been found on goldenrods, pickerel weeds, thistles, boneset, and heartbreak grasses. Adult bees chew pollen with their saliva to make honey. Larvae and the queens eat the honey. (Colla, et al., 2011)

  • Plant Foods
  • nectar
  • pollen

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Like other bees, common eastern bumblebees are important pollinators. While gathering food and materials, they pollinate many plants. Members of their own genus, lemon cuckoos, are nest parasites of common eastern bumblebees. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017; Colla, et al., 2011)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host

Do they cause problems?

Common eastern bumblebees may sting when they feel threatened. (Colla, et al., 2011)

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • injures humans

How do they interact with us?

Common eastern bumblebees are beneficial to humans because they are pollinate many types of flowers. They are used as a pollinator for crops in locations outside of their native range. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • pollinates crops

Are they endangered?

Contributors

Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

References

Balaban, J., J. Balaban. 2017. "Species Bombus impatiens - Common Eastern Bumble Bee" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed June 18, 2020 at https://bugguide.net/node/view/56797.

Cnaani, J., R. Schmid-Hempel, J. Schmidt. 2002. Colony development, larval development and worker reproduction in Bombus impatiens Cresson. Insectes Sociaux, 49: 164–170.

Colla, S., L. Richardson, P. Williams. 2011. Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States. Washington, D.C.: USDA Forest Service and the Pollinator Partnership. Accessed June 18, 2020 at https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/BumbleBeeGuideEast2011.pdf.

Jandt, J., A. Dornhaus. 2009. Spatial organization and division of labour in the bumblebee Bombus impatiens. Animal Behaviour, 77: 641–651.

KELEMEN, E., N. CAO, T. CAO, G. DAVIDOWITZ, A. DORNHAUS. 2019. Metabolic rate predicts the lifespan of workers in the bumble bee Bombus impatiens. Apidologie, 50: 195-203. Accessed June 19, 2020 at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13592-018-0630-y.

 
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Hauze, D. 2020. "Bombus impatiens" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 14, 2021 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Bombus_impatiens/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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