Currently viewing the category: "Bumble Bees"
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Subject: European Bumblebee
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
May 23, 2012 3:26 pm
Dear Bugman,
I am trying to distinguish this bee: Is it a white-tailed bumblebee or a buff-tailed bumblebee? I photographed it in my driveway last weekend in Belgrade, Serbia.
Thank you!
Signature: Bill Kralovec

Bumble Bee from Serbia

Dear Bill,
Thanks for sending in your request. indicates:  “The queens Bombus terrestris and B. lucorum are usually the first to emerge in the spring. B. terrestris queens are the largest bumblebees we have in the UK. It is fairly easy to differentiate between B. terrestris and B. lucorum queens –  the yellow thorax hairs of terrestris are more dull orangey while those of lucorum are more lemony [.]  B. terrestris has a brownish orange tip to her abdomen while B. lucorum’s is white – hence the common names.” also indicates:  “The workers of both species look like smaller versions of the lucorum queen. See the worker on the left. They are almost impossible to tell apart without dissection. The size range can vary quite a lot, but usually the smaller workers are from the earliest laid eggs. Bombus lucorum workers range from 0.04 – 0.32 g and the queens from 0.46 – 0.70 g; B. terrestris workers range from 0.05 g – 0.40 g.”  Our guess is that this is a queen White-Tailed Bumble Bee.  We are basing that on the information provided on the website we cited.  The early emergence and large size would indicate the bee is a queen.  Though many internet references use a single word Bumblebee, we are following the naming convention used on BugGuide.

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Tricolored Bumble Bee
Location: Mancos, CO (Southwestern Colorado)
May 4, 2012 4:11 pm
I have the great fortune of having an apple tree in full bloom here at my home. There are many species of bees buzzing about, but this one especially caught my eye. I thought that I would submit my picture of what I think is a tricolored bumble bee to you.
Signature: Jessica of Mancos, CO

Bumble Bee

Hi Jessica,
Thanks for sending us your beautiful photograph.  While the coloration on this Bumble Bee resembles that of the TriColored Bumble Bee,
Bombus ternarius, we have our doubts that the identification is correct.  You are not in the range that is documented on BugGuide, and BugGuide also states that the range is:  “Yukon to Nova Scotia, south to Georgia; widespread in the United States but rarely observed south of Pennsylvania.”  There are other similarly colored Bumble Bees, including Hunt’s Bumble Bee, Bombus huntii, which is documented from Colorado.  According to BugGuide, it has:  “Yellow hairs on face.”  Sadly, your photograph does not show the face.  Bombus sylvicola is also documented in Colorado according to BugGuide.  We also could not rule out the Red-Belted Bumble Bee, Bombus rufocinctus, which is also pictured on BugGuide.

After further investigation, it seems that my initial identification was incorrect.  It is indeed a Hunt’s Bumble Bee – I went back through the photos I had taken of (him? her?) and found a picture that shows a fuzzy ridge of yellow hairs on the crown of its head.  Thank you for your response, and please see the photo attached showing the facial hairs.

Hunt's Bumble Bee

Hi Jessica,
Thank you for the follow-up and additional photo.

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Sonoran Bumble?
Location: Hawthorne, CA
October 1, 2011 2:02 pm
We have a lot of bumble bees in the yard this time of year. This particular bee looks like a Sonoran, but it’s stripes aren’t as yellow as others. Is it a Sonoran or some other type of bumble bee. Is it maybe a female Sonoran?
Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon

Sonoran Bumble Bee

Hi Anna,
Though the photo you sent us in July shows the distinguishing thin black band across the thorax more distinctly than these current photos, we agree that this is a Sonoran Bumble Bee,
Bombus sonorus.  The pale coloration might be an individual variation, or this might be an older and more faded bee.

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Location:  Elyria Canyon State Park, Mt Washington, Los Angeles, California
August 13, 2011
WE keep returning to the Milkweed Meadow to document the progress there, and the Monarch Caterpillars have both vanished.  The Bumble Bee is usually there during the time the sun strikes the blooms, but we are still not certain if this is Crotch’s Bumble Bee or the California Bumble Bee.

Which Bumble Bee is it???

  We also noticed numerous tiny beetles on the milkweed blossoms.

Bumble Bee and Soft Winged Flower Beetles on Milkweed

Alas, the old model digital camera we are using does not have a macro setting that will allow us to get closer.  We would like to identify these beetles.  After the fact, we had a terrible thought that they might be the Walnut Twig Beetles that are spreading the 1000 Cankers Diseaseto black walnuts in the western states.  This matter will take additional research.  Many beetles with wood boring larvae feed on pollen as adults.  We should return tomorrow morning and collect a few specimens to take to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Soft Winged Flower Beetles on Milkweed blossoms

These is about the largest closeups that we can make.

Soft Winged Flower Beetles on Milkweed

Soft Winged Flower Beetles on Milkweed

Soft Winged Flower Beetles on Milkweed

Eric Eaton to the Rescue, Again
These are pretty easy to subfamily level.  They are soft-winged flower beetles in the family Melyridae, subfamily Dasytinae.  After that it gets really messy, really fast!  Nobody wants to try to ID them even to genus…..



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August 4, 2011
We walked back to the Milkweed Meadow in Elyria Canyon Park this morning to check on the status of the two Monarch Caterpillars,
Danaus plexippus, thinking that they might have transformed into chrysalides, but I could only find one of the caterpillars.  Hopefully the other was just elsewhere, or perhaps it found a nice place to metamorphose into a chrysalis

Monarch Caterpillar

A very wary Bumble Bee would not let me get close enough with the camera, and after several aborted attempts, we were lucky enough to get a few photos.  This is most definitely not a Yellow Faced Bumble Bee.  We were not able to get any photos of the abdominal markings until the last image.

Crotch’s or California Bumble Bee???

Just as it was flying off it showed its signature markings, but interestingly, it doesn’t match any of the images on BugGuide for the four species that Charles Hogue, in his landmark book Insects of the Los Angeles Basis, indicates are found locally.  After a bit more searching, we determined it might be Crotch’s Bumble Bee, Bombus crotchii, based on the illustration on the North American Bumble Bees and confirmed on the third photo down on the Las Pilitas Nursery webpage, and that appears to agree with this BugGuide image as well.  The Discover Life website also has photos.  Continued research is filling us with doubts.  It seems to match what we identified as a California Bumble Bee when we found one napping on the wisteria this spring.

Crotch’s or California Bumble Bee???

There appeared to be more Large Milkweed Bugs today than on Sunday, and there were several places where the Milkweed Aphids, AKA Oleander Aphids, Aphis nerii, were quite plentiful.  Read more about Milkweed Aphids on BugGuide.

Milkweed Aphids

Before leaving, I made sure to pull some more Marestail or Horseweed, Conyza species (See Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide or CalFlora) and more of that prickly yellow flower that is still not properly identified that might be a Spiny Sowthistle, Sonchus asper (See Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide).

Update:  on the Bumble Bee identity
August 5, 2011
Now we aren’t certain if the Bumble Bee is a California Bumble Bee or a Crotch’s Bumble Bee.

Update:  August 7, 2011
I returned to the Milkweed Meadow in Elyria Canyon Park to search for the Monarch Chrysalis, but the only caterpillar I could find has still not metamorphosed. 

Monarch Caterpillar in Elyria Canyon, August 7, 2011

I did get some additional photo of the Bumble Bee as well.  Here are the abdominal markings from a different angle.

Which Bumble Bee is it? Crotch’s or California???

Update:  August 11, 2011
I made a trip to the Milkweed Meadow in Elyria Canyon Park this evening about 6:30 and I was unable to find any Monarch Caterpillars.  I hope they wandered away from the milkweed to find a suitable location to transform into chrysalides.  I photographed a couple of Large Milkweed Bugs. 

Large Milkweed Bugs

The new addition to the insects that have become part of the milkweed ecosystem are Small Milkweed Bugs.  I found them  on two different milkweed plants. 

Small Milkweed Bugs

The individual I photographed was a difficult subject, and it kept hiding among the blossoms of the milkweed inflorescence.  I needed to intervene by including my hand in the photo to get a nice angle on the unwilling subject.

Small Milkweed Bug






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Wasp Predating on Bee
Location: Eatonton GA (Middle GA)
July 20, 2011 6:30 am
I love the daily Bug posts on Facebook. I’m a gardener and see all sorts of interesting insects. Here are two photos of a wasp eating a bee in my pole beans. I don’t know what kind of wasp this is – they typically eat pests and nectar. I think the bee is a wood bee – we have many of them.
Signature: GA Gardener

Hanging Thief eats Bumble Bee

Dear GA Gardener,
This adroit predator is a Hanging Thief, a species of Robber Fly, and it appears that it has caught and is feeding upon a small Bumble Bee.  You should be able to tell how the Hanging Thief got its common name as your photo clearly shows it hanging from a single leg as it is feeding.  The prey is typically caught on the wing.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination