If you are passionate about conserving these beneficial insects, you can get involved with groups such as Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Bumble Bee Watch. You can help on your own property by planting native flowers rich in pollen and nectar and by supporting organic gardening practices (Williams et al. 2014.)
There is a single record from central NY post-2000 as well as the 1990s (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013). The species was previously primarily known from the Adirondacks, although there are no records from there since 1980 despite sampling effort. Vermont survey efforts in 2012 suggest this species could be stable to slightly increasing in this neighboring state (Vermont Center for Ecostudies 2013); however, it appears to never have been a common species in NY and the limited data suggest a strong decline. Its decline has been attributed mainly to threats such as 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 is a single record from central NY post-2000 (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013). Vermont survey efforts in 2012 suggest this species could be stable to slightly increasing in this neighboring state (Vermont Center for Ecostudies 2013); however, it appears to never have been a common species in NY and the data suggest a strong decline (95% decline short-term, Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013).
There are three occurrences in NY since 1980 (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013). The species was primarily known from the Adirondacks, although there are no records from there since 1980 despite sampling effort. B. borealis appears to never have been a common species in NY and the data suggest a strong decline (96% decline long-term, Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013).
Threats to Bombus borealis include habitat loss, pesticides, and urbanization (Schweitzer et al. 2012) as well as pollution and invasive species. This sub-genus (Subterraneobombus) 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. As this species mainly resided in the Adirondacks prior to 2000, roads as barriers to dispersal and fragmentation of habitats may not be as large a threat for this species as for other Bombus found elsewhere.
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 northern amber bumble bees 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 northern amber 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), often using 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. borealis include vetches, thistles, asters, Prunella, Eupatorium, and Symphytum officinale (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, northern amber bumble bee has been documented in Hamilton and Tompkins counties. The single record post-2000 is from Tompkins County (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013). The species was primarily known from the Adirondacks, although there are no records from there since 1980 despite sampling effort.
The northern amber bumble bee range includes the Canadian maritimes west to Alberta and in the northeastern U.S. from Maine to Wisconsin, and Montana and Wyoming (NatureServe 2016).
Northern amber bumble bee queens and workers have a yellow face and yellow hair on the thorax, except for the lower sides, which are black, and a black band between the wing bases. Abdominal segments one through four are yellow and segment five can be black or yellow. Males have similar coloration to females, with black hair on the last three abdominal segments, present in varying degrees (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 Northern Amber Bumble Bee active and reproducing in New York.
Northern Amber Bumble Bee
Bombus borealis Kirby, 1837
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New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
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.
Vermont Center for Ecostudies. 2013. Vermont Bumblebee Survey Summary. VES News, the Newsletter of the Vermont Entomological Society, Number 78, Winter 2013, Page 5. Online. Available: www.vermontinsects.org/newsletter.html.
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 borealis. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/northern-amber-bumble-bee/. Accessed September 19, 2019.