High Country Bumble Bee - Bombus kirbiellus
Bombus balteatus, Alpinobombus balteatus, Bombus kirbyellus
For definitions and diagrams of bumble bee morphology please see the Montana State Entomology Collection's Bumble Bee Morphology page
. A long-tongued medium-sized species: queens 19-21 mm in length, workers 11-19 mm. Hair moderately long, head long with cheek much longer than wide; mid leg basitarsus with back far corner just acute but rounded, hind leg femur out surface flat and hairless (except for fringe) forming a pollen basket; hair on head black (often with yellow tufts at base of antennae), top pf head yellow mixed with black hairs; side of thorax yellow at least in upper half; T1-2 yellow, T3 usually with traces of yellow near edges at sides, banding on T3-4 clearly defined. Males 13-17 mm in length; eyes similar in size and shape to eyes of any female bumble bee; antennae long, flagellum 4X the length of scape; hair color pattern similar to queens and workers but the black band between the wings extensively intermixed with yellow hairs; S2-6 almost entirely bright yellow (Williams et al. 2014).
Across the range, queens reported April to September, workers and males May to September (Williams et al. 2014). In Toulumne County, California, queens reported May to August, workers June to September, males July to September (Koch et al. 2012); elsewhere in California, queens early July to early August, workers late July to early September, males late July to late August (Thorp et al. 1983).
Please see the Montana State Entomology Collection's Key to Female Bumble Bees in Montana
. Females told from other Montana Bombus
by a combination of the hind leg outer surface concave and hairless (except fringe), pollen basket present; cheek much longer than wide; face predominantly with black hair; T1-2 with yellow hair, T4-5 with orange or pale orange hairs.
Resident Year Round
Recorded Montana Distribution
Click the map for additional distribution information.
High elevations in the western US and Canada, from Alaska south to central California in the Sierra Nevada and White Mountains, to Colorado and northern New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains; also across the Arctic from Alaska to Ellesmere Island, northern Quebec, and Labradore (Williams et al. 2014). Reported in Colorado at 2900-4300 m elevation (Macior 1974), in California at 2740-3810 m elevation (Thorp et al. 1983). Reported in Montana above treeline (3050 m) in the Beartooth Mountains where it was the most abundant of 11 Bombus species (Bauer 1983).
Mostly above treeline at high elevations in alpine tundra, but also in high subalpine forest meadows; also occupies open boreal areas and Arctic tundra (Macior 1974, Hobbs 1967, Williams et al. 2014).
Feeds on a variety of flowers, including Aster, Castilleja, Chionophila, Chrysothamnus, Delphinium, Epilobium, Erysimum, Gentiana, Geranium, Lupinus, Mertensia, Oxytropis, Pedicularis, Penstemon, Phacelia, Phlox, Polemonium, Polygonum, Primula, Sedum, Senecio, Solidago, Symphyotrichum and Trifolium (Macior 1974, Schmitt 1980, Bauer 1983, Shaw and Taylor 1986, Pyke et al. 2012, Koch et al. 2012, Miller-Struttmann and Galen 2014, Williams et al. 2014, Ogilvie and Thomson 2015).
Nests built mostly underground. Nests were established in two above-ground hives and 12 below-ground hives in alpine tundra of southern Alberta; nest building began during mid-June to mid-July. All eggs of first broods deposited in a single cell, average number of eggs was 11 (range 7-21), the number of larvae was 14 (12-15). All members of first broods are workers, males and queens produced in succeeding broods (Hobbs 1964). In Colorado, 27 queens and two nests reported at 3600-4090 m elevation (Macior 1974). Males patrol circuits in search of queens. Parasitism by cuckoo bumble bees not reported in North America, but parasitized by B. hyperboreus in Europe (Williams et al. 2014).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Bauer, P.J. 1983. Bumblebee pollination relationships on the Beartooth Plateau tundra of Southern Montana. American Journal of Botany. 70(1): 134-144.
- Hobbs, G.A. 1964. Ecology of species of Bombus Latr. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in southern Alberta. I. Subgenus Alpinibombus Skor. Anadian Entomologist 96(11): 1465-1470.
- Hobbs, G.A. 1967. Ecology of species of Bombus Latr. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in southern Alberta. VI. Subgenus Pyrobombus. Canadian Entomologist 99: 1271-1292.
- 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.
- Miller-Struttmann, N.E. and C. Galen. 2014. High-altitude multi-taskers: bumble bee food plant use broadens along an altitudinal productivity gradient. Oecologia 176:1033-1045.
- Ogilvie, J.E. and J.D. Thomson. 2015. Male bumble bees are important pollinators of a late-blooming plant. Arthropod-Plant Interactions 9:205-213.
- Pyke, G.H., D.W. Inouye, and J.D. Thomson. 2012. Local geographic distributions of bumble bees near Crested Butte, Colorado: competition and community structure revisited. Environmental Entomology 41(6): 1332-1349.
- Schmitt, J. 1980. Pollinator foraging behavior and gene dispersal in Senecio (Compositae). Evolution 34: 934-943.
- Shaw, D.C. and R.J. Taylor.1986. Pollination ecology of an alpine fell-field community in the North Cascades. Northwest Science 60:21-31.
- 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.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
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- Dolan, A.C. 2016. Insects associated with Montana's huckleberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium globulare) plants and the bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 160 p.
- Kearns, C.A. and J.D. Thomson. 2001. The Natural History of Bumble Bees. Boulder, CO. University Press of Colorado.
- Simanonok, M.P., and L.A. Burkle. 2014. Partitioning interaction turnover among alpine pollination networks: Spatial temporal, and environmental patterns. Ecosphere 5(11):149.
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