Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The next specimen is a bumble bee, member of Apidae (Cuckoo, Carpenter, Bumble, and Honey Bees). Bumble bee species are differentiated by their yellow-black pattern. This specimen is a California Bumble Bee, based on its yellow thorax up to the wing joint and the single yellow band on the abdomen. When in the killing jar, this specimen extended all of its body parts, including its mouth parts and stinger. I generally avoid capturing bumble bees, as they are somewhat threatened, but I made an exception with this one. This bumble bee is very common on the west coast, hence the name.

Hymenoptera; Aculeata; Apoidea; Apidae; Apinae; Bombini; Bombus (Thoracobombus); Bombus californicus
Common Name: California Bumble Bee

Now to elaborate on Apinae and Bombus. Bumble bees can be orange, white, or yellow on black and most are over 20mm long. They are important pollinators of clover because they have such a long tongue. Most bumble bees nest in the ground, and only the fertilized queens overwinter. Some species of Bombus are actually parasites of other bumble bees and they are sometimes placed another genus, Psithyrus. The females of Psithyrus lay their eggs in other bumble bee nests for the larvae to be raised by that colony, often times by killing the host queen and releasing pheromones to "enslave" the previous queen's brood of workers.

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