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Bombus borealisNorthern 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.
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.
Like other Hymenoptera, the northern amber bumblebee undergoes a complete metamorphosis.
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.
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.
Brady S. Dunaway