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Bombus borealis queen: A. lateral view, B. dorsal view. Photo by Mississippi Entomological Museum. Image may be subject to copyright.
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Bombus borealis Kirby, 1837

Northern Amber Bumble Bee

Federal Protection: No US federal protection

State Protection: No Georgia state protection

Global Rank: G4G5

State Rank: S1

SWAP High Priority Species (SGCN): Yes

Element Occurrences (EOs) in Georgia: 0

Habitat Summary for element in Georgia: northern hardwoods


The northern amber bumblebee is medium-large species. Queens are 18-22 mm (.71-.87 inch) in length. Workers are approximately 13 mm (.51 inch) and males are 14-17 mm (.55-.67 inch). All bees are covered in a very bright yellow pubescence. The thorax and abdomen are covered in hair, except for a broad black band that stretches across the thorax, and the last abdominal segment.

Similar Species

This species is most similar to the American bumblebee, Bombus pensylvanicus. Longer, brighter yellow pubescence can help distinguish B. borealis from B. pensylvanicus. The northern amber bumblebee also displays black banding between yellow abdominal segments, which B. pensylvanicus generally lacks. Also, B. borealis has a yellow patch on its face, whereas B. pensylvanicus has a black face and head.


Nests are often subterranean, being constructed, primarily, in abandoned rodent burrows. However, nests may also be located above ground in clumps of grass, rock piles, bird nests, and old tree cavities. Preferred habitat includes boreal forests and temperate woodlands.


The northern amber bumblebee forages on a wide variety of plants. Recorded floral hosts include: Astragalus, Carduus, Cirsium, Linaria, Melilotus, Monarda, Pyrus, Rubus, Symphytum, Trifolium, and Vicia.

Life History

Like other Hymenoptera, the northern amber bumblebee undergoes a complete metamorphosis.

Survey Recommendations

Actively search among patches of preferred floral hosts. Bee bowls and Malaise traps may also be fruitful.


B. borealis is still frequently observed along much of the US/Canada border. Before its range declines, this species followed the Appalachian Highlands south to Georgia.


Loss of diverse, quality forestland has reduced suitable habitat where the species may forage, overwinter, and nest. Another significant factor in their decline is the transmission of pathogens from managed greenhouse bumblebee colonies. Other threats include climate change, irresponsible insecticide use, and competition from exotic invasive bees.

Georgia Conservation Status

Conservation Management Recommendations

Offer food and shelter for northern amber bumblebees by retaining or planting native grasses, as well as a variety of nectar and pollen-producing plants. Grow a diverse mix of blooming plants ensures that foraging opportunities will be present for bees throughout the seasons. Hedgerows and native woodlots can provide safe nesting sites. Avoid the use of chemical pesticides, especially in areas where northern amber bumblebees are known to occur.


Michell, Theodore B. Bees of the Eastern United States. Vol. 2. North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, 1960.

Authors of Account

Brady S. Dunaway

Date Compiled or Updated


Bombus borealis male: A. lateral view, B. dorsal view. Photo by Mississippi Entomological Museum. Image may be subject to copyright.
Bombus borealis worker: A. lateral view, B. dorsal view. Photo by Mississippi Entomological Museum. Image may be subject to copyright.