Yellow-banded Bumble Bee

Bombus terricola Kirby, 1837


Leif Richardson

Class
Insecta (Insects)
Family
Apidae (Triepeolus)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
S3
Vulnerable in New York - Vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors (but not currently imperiled); typically 21 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
G3G4
Vulnerable globally, or Apparently Secure - At moderate risk of extinction, with relatively few populations or locations in the world, few individuals, and/or restricted range; or uncommon but not rare globally; may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors. More information is needed to assign either G3 or G4.

Summary

Did you know?

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).

State Ranking Justification

While there is evidence from museum records that this species had a precipitous decline in NY (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013), the species appears to have rebounded, as evidenced by a statewide survey 2017-2021. Various threats continue to face this species including habitat loss, insecticides, and urbanization (Schweitzer et al. 2012). Based on data from the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey, the current (2000 to present) and historical (1999 and earlier) distribution in NY has remained relatively stable. While there has been a contraction from the lower latitudes of southern NY and Long Island, there has been expansion into other counties of NY not previously occupied (White et al. 2022).

Short-term Trends

Short-term trends for the species are unknown.

Long-term Trends

Based on data from the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey, the current (2000 to present) and historical (1999 and earlier) distribution in NY has remained relatively stable. While there has been a contraction from the lower latitudes of southern NY and Long Island, there has been expansion into other counties of NY not previously occupied (White et al. 2022).

Conservation and Management

Threats

The primary threat to species in the subgenus Bombus leading to their global rapid, recent decline in the 1990s has been attributed to exotic pathogens. Cameron et al. (2011) showed a higher proportion of B. terricola individuals infected by the pathogen Nosema bombi than other bumble bees with stable global populations. While there is evidence from museum records that this species had a precipitous decline in NY (Richardson 2013 and Yanega 2013), the species appears to have rebounded, as evidenced by a statewide survey 2017-2021. Various other threats continue to face this species including habitat loss, insecticides, and urbanization (Schweitzer et al. 2012).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Any efforts to protect wild bumble bee populations from pathogen exposure would benefit Yellow-banded 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).

Limiting exposure of Yellow-banded 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 temperatures 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.

Ensuring habitat resources for foraging, nesting, and overwintering will also benefit B. terricola. These habitats should be within close proximity to each other and without road or railroads between them, which have been suggested as potential barriers to dispersal. Suggested actions for habitat management should include ensuring nectar availability throughout the spring and summer by improving flower abundance and species richness and species with overlapping blooms. Select food plants for B. terricola include willows, roses, honeysuckles, goldenrods, asters, Vaccinium, and Rubus (Colla et al. 2011). If mowing of fields occurs, summer is the best time and mower blades should be raised to avoid ground nests. Staggering cutting times in different field areas will ensure nectaring sources are always available. Increasing available nesting habitat may be accomplished by reducing tillage in fields, leaving unplowed strips vegetated, or even providing artificial nesting boxes. Managing for rodents and ground-nesting birds should also benefit bumble bees (Schweitzer et al. 2012).

Research Needs

Further research is needed to determine more information on habitat requirements, threats, climate change effects, and insecticide effects for Yellow-banded Bumble Bee.

Habitat

Habitat

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. Bumble bees that are underground nesters such as this species often use abandoned rodent nests 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. terricola include on willows, roses, honeysuckles, goldenrods, asters, Vaccinium, and Rubus (Colla et al. 2011). Suitable sites for bumble bees to overwinter may include rotting logs, mulch, or loose soil (Schweitzer et al. 2012).

Range

New York State Distribution

The Yellow-banded Bumble Bee has been confirmed in locations throughout most of the state of NY (year 2000 to present). It does appear to be absent from southern NY and Long Island in recent years, though historically (1999 and earlier) present there (White et al. 2022).

Global Distribution

Yellow-banded Bumble bees range in North America from the Northwest territories south to Utah and east through the Appalachians and north along the Atlantic coast to Labrador (NatureServe 2023). Many states and provinces have not yet assessed their conservation status.

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Yellow-banded Bumble Bee queens and workers have yellow hair on the front of the thorax and abdominal segments two and three. Other areas are black except for brown to yellowish hairs on the far edge of abdominal segment five. Males have similar coloration to females, with the addition of long, pale, yellow hair on the front of the face and top of the head (Evans et al. 2008, Evans 2009). Queens are generally larger than workers and males (17-19 mm long, 9-10 mm wide). Workers are 8-15 mm long and 5-8 mm wide and males range from 13-17 mm long and 6-8 mm wide (Evans et al. 2008).

Best Time to See

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 best time to see queens would be early spring. Adults may be observed throughout the active months of April into November.

  • Present
  • Active
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Yellow-banded Bumble Bee present, active, and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Black and Gold Bumble Bee (Bombus auricomus) (guide)
    Black-and-gold Bumble Bees have yellow hair on their heads and lack brown hairs on the far edge of abdominal segment five. Males have yellow hair on the rear of the thorax, while these hairs are black on Yellow-banded Bumble Bees (Evans et al. 2009).
  • American Bumble Bee (Bombus pensylvanicus) (guide)
    American Bumble Bees have yellow hairs at the rear edge of the first abdominal segment and lack brown hairs on the far edge of abdominal segment five. Males have yellow hair on the rear of the thorax, while these hairs are black on Yellow-banded Bumble Bees (Evans et al. 2009).

Yellow-banded Bumble Bee Images

Taxonomy

Yellow-banded Bumble Bee
Bombus terricola Kirby, 1837

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Hymenoptera (Bees, Wasps, Ants, Sawflies)
          • Family Apidae (Triepeolus)

Additional Common Names

  • Yellowbanded Bumble Bee
  • Yellow Banded Bumble Bee

Additional Resources

References

Bachman, S., J. Moat, A. Hill, J. de la Torre, and B. Scott. 2011. Supporting red list threat assessments with GeoCAT: geospatial conservation assessment tool. In: Smith, V. and L. Penev (Eds) e-Infrastructures for data publishing in biodiversity science. ZooKeys 150: 117-126. (Version BETA). Available online at: https://www.kew.org/science/our-science/projects/geocat-geospatial-conservation-assessment-tool.

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.

Evans, E. 2009. Pocket guide to identifying the yellowbanded bumble bee (Bombus terricola). The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Accessed at http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/terricola_pocketid1.pdf.

Evans, E., R. Thorp, S. Jepson and S. Hoffman-Black. 2008. Status Review of three formerly common species of bumble bees in the subgenus Bombus. The Xerces Society. 63 pp. Accessed at http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/xerces_2008_bombus_status_review.pdf

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. 2023. NatureServe Network Biodiversity Location Data accessed through NatureServe Explorer [web application]. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available https://explorer.natureserve.org/.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. no date. Empire State Native Pollinator Survey and Fort Drum Pollinator Database. New York Natural Heritage Program. 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.

White, Erin L., Matthew D. Schlesinger, and Timothy G. Howard. 2022. The Empire State Native Pollinator Survey (2017-2021). New York Natural Heritage Program. Albany, NY.

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.

Links

About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Erin L. White

Information for this guide was last updated on: September 19, 2023

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Bombus terricola. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/yellowbanded-bumble-bee/. Accessed May 26, 2024.