Central Bumble Bee - Bombus centralis
For definitions and diagrams of bumble bee morphology please see the Montana State Entomology Collection's Bumble Bee Morphology page
. A small-sized species with a medium-long tongue: queens 16-18 mm, workers 10-13 mm. Head length medium, with cheek slightly longer than broad; mid leg basitarsus with back far corner rounded; outer surface of hind leg tibia flat and without long hair but with long fringes at edges, forming a pollen basket; yellow hair on the upper side of head and anterior part of thorax; T1-2 entirely yellow or with black at front and middle; T3-4 orange; T5-6 mostly black. Male 12-14 mm; eye similar in size and shape to any female bumble bee; antennae medium length with flagellum 2.5-3X longer than scape. hair color pattern similar to queens and workers, although lacks black hairs at back of yellow band on thorax; T3-4 red without any black hairs; T5-7 mostly red to mostly black (Williams et al. 2014).
Queens reported across the range from March to October, workers and males from April to September (Williams et al. 2014). In Utah, queens reported March to June, workers March to September, males May to September (Koch et al. 2012). In California, queens reported late April to early September, workers early May to early September, males early June to early October (Thorp et al. 1983). Peak abundance of workers in Palouse Prairie remnants of western Idaho and eastern Washington was during late July (Hatten et al. 2013).
Please see the Montana State Entomology Collection's Key to Female Bumble Bees in Montana
. Females distinguished from other Montana Bombus
by a combination of concave and shiny outer surface of hind leg tibia with pollen basket present; cheek slightly longer than wide; face with yellow hair; mostly yellow hair on thorax anterior to wind bases; T1-2 yellow and T3-4 orange.
Resident Year Round
Recorded Montana Distribution
Click the map for additional distribution information.
Occurs in the mountain West from Alaska south to southern California and east to the Great Plains; moderately common across much of its range, although generally absent from the coastal mountains and portions of the southwestern deserts. In Colorado, reported between 1900 and 3400 m elevation (Macior 1974). In Montana, reported from the western mountains to the southeastern ponderosa pine woodlands (Williams et al. 2014).
Open grassy prairies and sagebrush steppe to montane and alpine meadows (Macior 1974, Bowers 1985, Norment 1988, Kearns and Oliveras 2009, Cook et al. 2011, Hatten et al. 2013, Williams et al. 2014). Greatest abundance in southern Alberta in irrigated prairie and wooded riparian (Hobbs 1967). A nest in southern Alberta initiated in woods-meadow ecotone (Richards 1978). Relatively rare in commercial highbush blueberry crops in southern British Columbia (Ratti et al. 2008).
Feeds on a variety of flowers, including Aconitum, Allium, Anaphalis, Astragalus, Balsamorhiza, Caragana, Chrysothamnus, Cirsium, Delphinium, Dodecatheon, Epilobium, Ericameria, Erigeron, Eriogonum, Erysimum, Frasera, Geranium, Iris, Linaria, Lupinus, Mertensia, Monardella, Oxytropis, Pedicularis, Penstemon, Phacelia, Ribes, Rosa, Rubus, Rudbeckia, Sisyrinchium, Thermopsis, and Trifolium (Macior 1974, Thorp et al. 1983, Norment 1988, Mayer et al. 2000, Wilson et al. 2010, Williams et al. 2014). Infrequent visitor to commercial Vaccinium in southern British Columbia (Ratti et al. 2008).
Nests underground (Hobbs 1967, Williams et al. 2014). Nests initiated mostly in late May to early June in southern Alberta (Hobbs 1967, Richards 1978); the mean number of larvae and pupae of firsts broods was nine. Males, upon emerging, patrol circuits in search of queens. Parasitism of nests by cuckoo bumble bees has not been reported but is likely (see comments in Hobbs 1967).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Bowers, M.A. 1985. Bumble bee colonization, extinction, and reproduction in subalpine meadows in northeastern Utah. Ecology 66(3): 914-927.
- Cook, S.P., S.A. Birch, F.W. Merickel, C.C. Lowe, and D. Page-Dumroese. 2011. Bumble bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) community structure on two sagebrush steppe sites in southern Idaho. Pan-Pacific Entomologist 87(3): 161-171.
- Hatten, T.D., C. Looney, J.P. Stange, and N.A. Bosque-Pérez. 2013. Bumble bee fauna of Palouse Prairie: survey of native bee pollinators in a fragmented ecosystem. Journal of Insect Science 13(26): 1-19.
- Hobbs, G.A. 1967. Ecology of species of Bombus Latr. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in southern Alberta. VI. Subgenus Pyrobombus. Canadian Entomologist 99: 1271-1292.
- Kearns, C.A. and D.M. Oliveras. 2009. Boulder County bees revisited: a resampling of Boulder Colorado bees a century later. Journal of Insect Conservation 13: 603-613.
- Koch, J., J. Strange, and P. Williams. 2012. Bumble bees of the western United States. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service, Pollinator Partnership. 143 p.
- Macior, L.M. 1974. Pollination ecology of the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Melanderia 15: 1-59.
- Mayer, D.F., E.R. Miliczky, B.F. Finnigan, and C.A. Johnson. 2000. The bee fauna (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) of southeastern Washington. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia 97: 25-31.
- Norment, C.J. 1988. The effects of nectar-thieving ants on the reproductive success of Frasera speciosa (Gentianaceae). American Midland Naturalist 120(2): 331-336.
- Ratti, C.M., H.A. Higo, T.L. Griswold, and M.L. Winston. 2008. Bumble bees influence berry size in comercial Vaccinium spp. cultivation in British Columbia. Canadian Entomologist 140(3): 348-363.
- Richards, K.W. 1978. Nest site selection by bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in southern Alberta. Canadian Entomologist 110(3): 301-318.
- Thorp, R.W., D.S. Horning, and L.L. Dunning. 1983. Bumble bees and cuckoo bumble bees of California (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Bulletin of the California Insect Survey 23:1-79.
- Williams, P., R. Thorp, L. Richardson, and S. Colla. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press.
- Wilson, J.S., L.E. Wilson, L.D. Loftis, and T. Griswold. 2010. The montane bee fauna of north central Washington, USA, with floral associations. Western North American Naturalist 70(2): 198-207.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
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- Kearns, C.A. and J.D. Thomson. 2001. The Natural History of Bumble Bees. Boulder, CO. University Press of Colorado.
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