Bumble Bees of North America

Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide

Paul H. Williams
Robbin W. Thorp
Leif L. Richardson
Sheila R. Colla
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wpzr9
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Bumble Bees of North America
    Book Description:

    More than ever before, there is widespread interest in studying bumble bees and the critical role they play in our ecosystems.Bumble Bees of North Americais the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century. Richly illustrated with color photographs, diagrams, range maps, and graphs of seasonal activity patterns, this guide allows amateur and professional naturalists to identify all 46 bumble bee species found north of Mexico and to understand their ecology and changing geographic distributions.

    The book draws on the latest molecular research, shows the enormous color variation within species, and guides readers through the many confusing convergences between species. It draws on a large repository of data from museum collections and presents state-of-the-art results on evolutionary relationships, distributions, and ecological roles. Illustrated keys allow identification of color morphs and social castes.

    A landmark publication,Bumble Bees of North Americasets the standard for guides and the study of these important insects.

    The best guide yet to the 46 recognized bumble bee species in North America north of MexicoUp-to-date taxonomy includes previously unpublished resultsDetailed distribution mapsExtensive keys identify the many color patterns of species

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5118-8
    Subjects: Zoology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 7-16)

    Everybody likes bumble bees. As colorful and familiar visitors to flowers, these insects have long been appreciated by artists, naturalists, and farmers. The eighteenth-century German pioneer of pollination biology, Christian Konrad Sprengel, made observations of their behavior at flowers, and Charles Darwin went on to describe their importance as pollinators at a time when this ecological function had not been widely recognized. In North America, naturalists have been describing their diversity for more than two centuries, but a great deal remains to be done. This guide is aimed at making that easier.

    The value of bumble bees as pollinators of...

  4. OBSERVING BUMBLE BEES
    (pp. 17-19)

    Properly identifying a fast-moving bumble bee to species level requires a bit of practice, patience, and some tried-and-true techniques. While a foraging bumble bee is quite docile when busy gathering food from flower to flower, female bumble bees can and will sting if defending their nest or trapped (e.g., under foot, in clothing). Unlike honey bees, which die if they use their strongly barbed sting, bumble bees can often withdraw their weakly barbed sting from skin and use it repeatedly until they are able to escape. However, by being cautious, you will be able to observe bumble bees closely in...

  5. ATTRACTING BUMBLE BEES
    (pp. 20-21)

    There are several easy ways to attract a variety of bumble bees and other interesting pollinators to your garden. Not only will you benefit by being able to observe and learn to identify these animals from day to day in your own backyard, but you will also be helping them by providing food and shelter, precious resources in our increasingly altered landscapes.

    Bumble bees feed from pollen- and nectar-rich flowers throughout the spring and summer. Spring queens must visit early-flowering plants to build up energy stores before they can start a new colony. Later in the summer, workers need an...

  6. BUMBLE BEE FORAGE GUIDE BY ECOREGION
    (pp. 22-28)

    In the species accounts, we use quotes around “Aster” and “Epilobium” because, although these genera have been split taxonomically, bumble bees forage on all the daughter genera. We cannot tell which genus a collector intended when recording the name of a plant from which a bumble bee was collected.

    Yukon Penstemon (Penstemon gormanii)

    Arctic Lupine (Lupinus arcticus)

    Horned Dandelion (Taraxacum cerotophorum)

    Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia)

    Northern Labrador Tea (Rhododendron tomentosum)

    Lapland Rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum)

    Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

    Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)

    Sweet Clovers (Melilotusspp.*)

    Vetches (Viciaspp.*)

    Willowherbs and Fireweeds (Chamerion and Epilobiumspp.)

    Berry shrubs such as blueberry,...

  7. MAPS AND SEASONAL ACTIVITY
    (pp. 29-30)

    Where and when are the different bumble bee species active? Bumble bees have been a popular research focus of North American students, naturalists, and scientists for more than a century; as a result, thousands of pinned specimens, each with a label describing the details of its collection and identity, can be found in the scientific collections of museums, universities, and government institutions. A recent focus of these institutions has been the digitizing of collections in order to make the data accessible to scientists and the general public. We assembled a database of more than 250,000 digitized, georeferenced bumble bee collections...

  8. BUMBLE BEE DECLINE AND CONSERVATION
    (pp. 31-32)

    Drastic declines of bee populations have been making newspaper headlines in recent years. Reductions in managed honey bee colonies, an introduced species that pollinates many important agricultural crops, have increased awareness about how much we rely on bees in general for their ecosystem services. Our native bumble bees are also important pollinators of a variety of food crops and have recently been found to be in decline in the wild. Bumble bees excel at pollinating many crops grown in greenhouses such as peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. They are also efficient pollinators of early blooming field crops such as blueberries and...

  9. THREATS TO BUMBLE BEES
    (pp. 33-35)

    The reason some bumble bee species are declining rapidly while others remain common is the subject of much scientific research. Bumble bee species differ in their seasonal activity, preferred food plants, colony productivity, habitat usage, and other life history traits. These differences may explain differential variability in regard to environmental stressors. According to research so far, it seems unlikely that one stressor is to blame in all situations, and a combination of threats may explain the declines. Below are some suspected threats to wild bumble bee populations.

    Many plants and animals have habitat requirements that are not met in our...

  10. NATURAL ENEMIES
    (pp. 35-37)

    Like all insects, bumble bees face predators and parasites that constrain populations in natural ecosystems. Despite having a defensive stinger and warning coloration, bumble bees face numerous natural enemies. Bumble bee colonies are filled with protein-and carbohydrate-rich nectar, pollen, and larvae and are commonly attacked by mammals, including bears, raccoons, and skunks. In flight, a bumble bee may provide a quick snack for a bird.

    Foraging bumble bees are regularly eaten by certain invertebrates. Crab spiders (Thomisidae) do not spin webs, but instead ambush bumble bees at flowers. Cryptically colored ambush bugs (Phymatidae) also attack bees on flowers. Robber flies...

  11. MIMICRY
    (pp. 38-41)

    The eye-catching color patterns of bumble bees, mostly yellow and black, sometimes with red or white or both, serve to remind experienced predators that these bees may produce a painful sting when handled. Other insects, such as flower flies, which lack stingers or other distasteful characteristics, have evolved to look and act like bumble bees, thus gaining a measure of protection from predation through mimicry (see photo page 42) . In a classic case of suchBatesian mimicry, the edible Viceroy butterfly has evolved to look like the distasteful Monarch, which sequesters cardiac glycosides when its caterpillars feed on milkweed....

  12. DISTINGUISHING BUMBLE BEES FROM OTHER INSECTS
    (pp. 42-44)

    Most people are familiar with bumble bees, recognizing their fuzzy, colorful, robust bodies and noisy bumbling flight between flowers. Bumble bees are very hairy bees with combinations of contrasting bright colors, mostly black and yellow, sometimes with various combinations of red or white. They have two pairs of wings that are usually folded back over the abdomen while they are foraging on flowers, or hooked together as a single unit when in flight. Bumble bees also have slender elbowed antennae, and females of the pollen-collecting species have the hind tibia expanded, slightly concave, and fringed with long hairs to form...

  13. BUMBLE BEE NAMES AND CLASSIFICATION
    (pp. 45-48)

    The aim of this guide is to help people identify bumble bees to species—that is, to find their correct names. Names are important because these labels, as part of the information retrieval system, allow us to bring together information from different sources on all aspects of each particular species, including their behavior and ecology.

    For names to work for information retrieval, they have to be standardized. This is the purpose and advantage of formal “Latin” names. People have always given organisms “common” names, but these names are inconsistent in different languages and even in different places with the same...

  14. HOW TO USE THIS BOOK TO IDENTIFY BUMBLE BEE SPECIES
    (pp. 48-50)

    The hair (pile or pubescence) of bumble bees has many different color patterns, which may give the impression that species should be easy to identify. Unfortunately it is not that straightforward. Simple keys based on color patterns may appear easy to use, and may work well on small local faunas, but they are unreliable for correct identification at the continent-wide level. Not only do bumble bee color patterns often vary a lot within species, but different species can also look very similar to one another. It is also possible that new color variations will always be found. So even after...

  15. Species Accounts
    • GROUP 1 SQUARE- OR LONG-CHEEKED BEES WITH A ROUNDED ANGLE ON THE MIDLEG
      (pp. 52-110)
    • GROUP 2 SHORT-CHEEKED BEES WITH A ROUNDED ANGLE ON THE MIDLEG
      (pp. 111-135)
    • GROUP 3 MEDIUM- OR LONG-CHEEKED BEES WITH A SHARP ANGLE ON THE MIDLEG
      (pp. 136-154)
    • GROUP 4 HINDLEG (TIBIA) WITH THE OUTER SURFACE UNIFORMLY CONVEX AND DENSELY HAIRY (CUCKOO BUMBLE BEES, NO WORKERS)
      (pp. 155-167)
  16. IDENTIFICATION KEYS TO FEMALE AND MALE BUMBLE BEES, WITH PHOTOS
    (pp. 168-198)
  17. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 199-202)
  18. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
    (pp. 203-203)
  19. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 204-205)
  20. PHOTO CREDITS
    (pp. 206-206)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 207-208)