Black and gold bumble bees (Bombus auricomus) are very similar in appearance to Nevada bumble bees (Bombus nevadensis). However, Nevada bumble bees are a western species and have not been documented in New York.
Black and gold bumble bees are known from just two New York locations (Monroe and Tompkins counties) since 1980 (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013). This species is only known from 8 locations overall since 1899 and appears to never have been common in NY, where it is on the northern and eastern range margin for the species. Threats to the species include habitat loss, pesticides, and urbanization (Schweitzer et al. 2012) as well as pollution and invasive species. It does not appear to be experiencing high susceptiblity to the N. bombi pathogen as with Bombus and Thoracobomus sub-genera.
There are two locations known since the 1990s (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013) and they have never been common in NY.
There are two occurrences in NY since 1980 (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013) and the species is known from 8 locations overall since 1899 and appears to never have been a common in NY.
Threats to Bombus auricomus include habitat loss, pesticides, and urbanization (Schweitzer et al. 2012) as well as pollution and invasive species. This sub-genus (Bombias) does not appear to be experiencing high susceptiblity to the protozoan N. bombi, a pathogen attributed to playing a large role in the decline of Bombus and Thoracobomus sub-genera.
Any efforts to protect wild bumble bee populations from pathogen exposure would benefit northern amber bumble bees. Suggested actions would include using mesh to prevent escape of bees from commercial breeding greenhouses, proper disposal of commercial bees, sanitation in greenhouses, and development of molecular screening. Tight restrictions on importing bumble bees and elimination of parasites from commercial populations has been suggested as ideal (Meeus et al. 2011, Schweitzer et al. 2012).
Minimal to no exposure of black and gold bumble bee to insecticides would also benefit them. Suggested actions include avoidance of application to flowers that bumble bees are attracted to and application of solutions or soluble powders (rather than dusts or wettable powders) to the ground in calm wind and warmer tempertures during periods of dewless nights to minimize the impact to resident bumble bee populations (Schweitzer et al. 2012). Organic farming has also been suggested to benefit bumble bees.
Further research is needed to determine more information on habitat requirements, threats, climate change effects, and insecticide effects for black and gold bumble bees. A statewide inventory to assess the distribution and abundance of this species is also needed.
Bumble bees are generalist foragers and need nesting habitat in the spring, flowers for adult and larval nutrition throughout the spring and summer, and sites for queens to overwinter. This bumble bee nests underground (Colla et al. 2011). Such species often use abandoned rodent nests underground in south facing exposures. Foraging habitat should include flower abundance and species richness with overlapping blooms to ensure nectar availability throughout the growing season (Schweitzer et al. 2012). Select food plants for B. auricomus include clovers, bee balms, Solanum, Hypericum, and Eupatorium (Colla et al. 2011). Suitable sites for bumble bees to overwinter may include rotting logs, mulch, or loose soil (Schweitzer et al. 2012).
Since 1980, black and gold bumble bee has been documented in Monroe and Tompkins counties. The single record post-2000 is from Monroe County (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013). Prior to 1980, this species was known from six other locations statewide, but has never been common in NY.
The black and gold bumble bee range includes the eastern United States south to Florida and west to Wyoming, and in Canada, the range includes Ontario and possibly Saskatchewan west to British Columbia (NatureServe 2016).
Black and gold bumble bee queens, workers, and males have a long-shaped face and at least some yellow hairs on the top of their head and yellow banding on the thorax. Abodominal segment one usually has at least some yellow, especially laterally. Segments two and three are yellow, with the last segments black (Colla et al. 2011).
Bumble bee queens hibernate over the winter, emerge in the spring, locate a nest site, and rear young (workers, males, and new queens). After new queens and males mate, all males, workers, and old queens die by the beginning of winter and new queens settle into sites to overwinter (Schweitzer et al. 2012).
The time of year you would expect to find Black and Gold Bumble Bee active and reproducing in New York.
Black and Gold Bumble Bee
Bombus auricomus (Robertson, 1903)
The scientific name for this species has not changed. However, NatureServe did not have a record of it occuring in NY. There are at least 4 occurrences since 1980 for this species that we will begin tracking. One of the records is considered "current" and post 2000 based on Richardson 2013 compiled dataset.
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Cameron, S.A., J.D. Lozier, J.P. Strange, J.B. Koch, N. Cordes, L.F. Solter, and T.L. Griswold. 2011. Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees. PNAS. 108 (2): 662-667.
Colla, S., L. Richardson, and P. Williams. 2011. Bumble bees of the eastern United States.
Meeus, I., Brown, M.J.F., DeGraaf, D.C., and G. Smagghe. 2011. Effects of invasive parasites on bumble bee declines. Conservation Biology 25(4): 662-671.
NatureServe. 2016. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Poole, R. W., and P. Gentili (eds.). 1996. Nomina Insecta Nearctica: a checklist of the insects of North America. Volume 2 (Hymenoptera, Mecoptera, Megaloptera, Neuroptera, Raphidioptera, Trichoptera). Entomological Information Services, Rockville, MD.
Richardson, L. 2013. Compilation of specimen records for Bombus species of North America from the American Museum of Natural History, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, among several other museums. Unpublished data.
Schweitzer, D. and N. Sears. May 1, 2013. Bumble bee ranking guidelines. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.
Schweitzer, D.F., N.A. Capuano, B.E. Young and S.R. Colla. 2012. Conservation and management of North American bumble bees. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, and USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C. 17 pp.
Williams, P.H., R.W. Thorp, L.L. Richardson, and S.R. Colla. 2014b. Bumble bees of North America: an Identification Guide. Princeton University Press. 208 pp.
Yanega, D. 2013. Compilation of specimen records for Bombus species of North America from the University of California Riverside Entomology Research Museum, the Essig Museum of Entomology, University of California Berkeley, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California State Collection of Arthropods. Unpublished data.
This guide was authored by: Erin L. White
Information for this guide was last updated on: April 1, 2016
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Bombus auricomus. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/black-and-gold-bumble-bee/. Accessed March 20, 2019.