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Species Bombus impatiens - Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Bumblebee, Apidae - Bombus impatiens - female Bumble Bee - Bombus impatiens - female large Bumble Bee - Bombus impatiens - female Mating Bumblebees - Bombus impatiens - male - female Bombus...which one? - Bombus impatiens - male Bombus ID Request - Bombus impatiens - male Bumblebee nest - Bombus impatiens - female
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
No Taxon (Aculeata - Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps)
No Taxon (Anthophila (Apoidea) - Bees)
Family Apidae (Cuckoo, Carpenter, Digger, Bumble, and Honey Bees)
Subfamily Apinae (Honey, Bumble, Long-horned, Orchid, and Digger Bees)
Tribe Bombini (Bumble Bees)
Genus Bombus (Bumble Bees)
No Taxon (Subgenus Pyrobombus)
Species impatiens (Common Eastern Bumble Bee)
Explanation of Names
Named for the plant genus Impatiens, which it often visits.
Author: Cresson, 1863.
Size
queen: body length 17-21 mm
male: 12-17 mm
worker: 8.5-16 mm
Identification
Pale T1 (T1= tergum 1) and all black T2 (but some individuals have a considerable amount of yellow on T2 and these can easily be confused with B. bimaculatus)
See detailed description of queen and male at discoverlife.org
Tongue length: medium
1. Queen. 2. Worker. 3. Male. 4. Mating queen and male.


The hue of yellow tends to be paler (perhaps more greyish) than in other species. Rather than a conspicuous yellow spot as in bimaculatus the scutum tends to have a vague interalar band formed by darker interspersed hairs. The hair coat is rather shaggy and the integument of the scutum is visible beneath whereas in griseocollis the coat is short and very dense. The malar space is clearly shorter than in bimaculatus but longer than griseocollis. Unlike griseocollis the vertex has yellow hairs but these may be less conspicuous than in bimaculatus.
Range
Eastern North America, from Ontario to Maine and south to south Florida (Miami area). Common on Atlantic coast; much less common near the western edge of its range (eastern ND, central NE, western KS, eastern TX).
Now widely used for greenhouse pollination in California and Mexico, far outside its native range. In the West it is used to replace the previously used western species Bombus occidentalis, because most wild and commercial populations of Bombus occidentalis disappeared after this species was developed for use by the bumble bee industry. Efforts are underway to obtain permits authorizing use of exotic B. impatiens for outdoor field pollination in California, where a very similar and very closely related species, the California native Bombus vosnesenskii, is abundant. In Mexico, B. ephippiatus is an abundant and potentially usable native alternative to B. impatiens.

Habitat
Very general, including intensively farmed areas, suburbs, and highly urban areas such as downtown Chicago and Manhattan.
Season
March to November; as early as January and February in Florida. This species overlaps broadly in flight season with all other sympatric Bombus.

In the northeastern USA it remains abundant later in fall after other species have declined in numbers, and can still be found on flowers well into November.
Food
A generalist, overlapping in its food requirements with other eastern short-tongued bumble bees. Very large numbers visit Solidago and other composites in the late summer and fall. The Hosts section on its Discover Life Species Page lists known associations based on specimen records and images.
Remarks
This is the most often encountered bumble bee across much of eastern North America. It has unusually large colony sizes and for this reason may be at some competitive advantage. It has an unusually long flight season and thrives across a wide range of habitats and climates ranging from the cold temperate zone (e.g., Minnesota) to the warm subtropics (south Florida). Its occurrence in the Miami area was documented long ago by Graenicher, showing that this species can establish and perpetuate itself in warm and relatively aseasonal areas. It does not require cool temperatures to overwinter.
Multiple phylogenetic studies document a very close relationship between B. impatiens, B. ephippiatus, and B. vosnesenskii, each of which is exceptionally abundant and widely distributed in its non-overlapping native range. These species of subgenus Pyrobombus are potentially important as managed pollinators in eastern North America, Mexico, and California respectively.
Internet References
26 pinned adult images plus detailed description of queen and male, distribution, seasonality, flower records (discoverlife.org)
live adult images (Emily Earp and Josh Hillman, floridanature.org)
common name reference; PDF doc (Committee on Common Names of Insects, Entomological Society of America)
links to photos of male genitalia (Natural History Museum, UK)