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Black and Gold Bumble Bee

Common Name: Black and Gold Bumble Bee.

Scientific Name: Bombus Auricomus.

What to look for?  A rather large black and yellow bee! The Black and Gold Bumble Bee is one of the largest bumble bees in the U.S. The head is covered by mostly black hairs. The top of the head is densely pitted in the middle and smooth at the sides with a dense band of yellow hairs at the rear. They have two large compound eyes, one on each side of the head. They also have three small simple eyes (ocelli) in a triangular pattern at the top of the head between the compound eyes with the middle ocellus larger than the two lateral ones. The antennae has twelve (12) segments. The tongue is long. The thorax has three (3) short-hair segments - the first segment is yellow, the second is black, and third is black with a very narrow yellow band at the rear. The abdomen has six (6) short-hair segments - the first segment is black with some yellow hairs on the sides; the second and third segments are entirely yellow, while the remaining segments are entirely black.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Black and Gold Bumble Bees can be found during summer on Wild Bergamots and other wildflowers around Carillon Stonegate Pond.

How big are they? Black and Gold Bumble Bees are quite large. Queens are up to one (1) inch in length, while both workers and males are approximately three-quarters of an inch (0.75) in length.

What are their flight patterns? For a large bee, Black and Gold Bumble Bees are fast and reasonably agile in flight.

How else do they behave? Black and Gold Bumble Bees, like most bumble bees, are eusocial insects that live in colonies composed of a queen, workers and reproductives (males and new queens). Colonies are annual and only the new, mated queens overwinter. Black and Gold Bumble Bee activity period. Queens remain active throughout the season, while workers and males only around in the late part of the season in July and August.

What’s for dinner? The Black and Gold Bumble Bee larvae feed on pollen and nectar. Adults, like many other bees, eat nectar and pollen, while pollinating flowers in the process. They forage Wild Bergamots and horse-mints, clovers, thistles, and vetches.

Where do they take up residence? Black and Gold Bumble Bees favor the tall grass prairies and grasslands and will regularly visit floral resources in dunes, marshes, forest edges, farmland, and urban areas. These bumble bees favor the temperate region of the eastern Great Plains, the Midwest, eastern U.S., and southern Canada.

When and where do they breed and nest? The life cycle of the Black and Gold Bumble Bee includes egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. Colonies are annual and only the new, mated queens overwinter. These queens emerge from hibernation in the early spring, start foraging for pollen and nectar, and begin to search for a nest site. Nests or hives are often located underground in abandoned rodent nests, or above ground in tufts of grass, old bird nests, rock piles, or cavities in dead trees.  The first brood raised consists of all workers (females) – approximately thirty-five (35) in total. The workers do all the jobs of the hive except egg laying. Late in the year, both males and queens are produced. Males mate with queens in the fall.

Where do they migrate? Black and Gold Bumble Bees do not migrate. They overwinter as prepupae.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No. Although when they fly by your head, they sound like a helicopter.

Interesting Facts About the Black and Gold Bumble Bee:

  • A colony of Black and Gold Bumble Bees usually only comprises a queen and about 35 workers.

  • They are one of our largest bumble bee species.

  • Bumblebees are well known to engage in “buzz pollination” - an effective foraging technique in which they jiggle or sonicate the flowers to vibrate the pollen loose from the anthers.

  • Bumble bees forage from a diversity of plants, largely due to differences in tongue length.

For more information on Black and Gold Bumble Bees and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Michigan State Extension Plants and Animals, Missouri Department of Conservation Field Guide, Montana Field Guides, Minnesota Seasons, and University of Wisconsin Bumble Bees of Wisconsin.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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