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Two-spotted Bumble Bee

Common Name: Two-spotted Bumble Bee.

Scientific Name: Bombus Bimaculatus.

What to look for?  Black and yellow buzzing insect! The Two-spotted Bumble Bee is small, colonial bumble bee (Hamiltonian “colonial” in the sense that the collective colony of bees creates their strength and survival). The Two-spotted Bumble Bee has a yellow thorax with a small, round, black spot in the middle. The first abdominal segment is entirely yellow. The second section has a broad, yellow, W-shaped spot in the middle. The remaining sections are all black. And, if you are close enough to see (not recommended!), the hairs on the back of the head are yellow. Bumblebees have four wings, two small rear wings that usually attached to the two fore wings by a row of hooks called “hamuli”.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Two-spotted Bumble Bee emerges (see “Where do they migrate?” below to better understand) in very early spring and is very active until mid-summer. Look for them around the various wildflowers along the pathway next to Carillon Stonegate Pond. And, of course, look for these bees in your own lovely flower gardens!

How big are they? Small for bumble bees! The Two-spotted Bumble Bee queen averages just over three-fourths of one inch in length with a wingspan of approximately one and one-half inches. The males and worker bees average one-half of one inch in length with a wingspan of just over one inch.

What are their flight patterns? If you look closely at them, the short and stubby bumblebee does not look very flight-worthy. Rather than flapping their wings up and down, bumblebees actually flap their wings back and forth to fly. And Two-spotted Bumble Bees - as are most bumblebees - are remarkable navigators. While their flight paths may look erratic to the casual observer, it is anything but random. Like that famous mathematical problem of how to take the shortest path along multiple stops, bumblebees quickly find efficient routes among flowers. And once they find a good route, they stick to it.

How else do they behave? Bumblebees are social insects that live in colonies. Like other bumble bees, the Two-spotted Bumble Bee will sting to protect itself or its nest. The bee can sting multiple times.

What’s for dinner? The Two-spotted Bumble Bee feeds on the pollen and nectar of flowers. The high sugar content of the plants’ nectar provides the bees with both food and energy. With their very long tongues, Two-spotted Bumble Bees can feed on nectar of plants with long corolla tubes. And they rear their young on nutritious and protein-rich pollen.

Where do they take up residence? Two-spotted Bumble Bees are one of the most widespread and abundant species in eastern North America. They are also found across most of Illinois. They tend to prefer to be close to wooded areas, but will also take up residence in urban areas and gardens.

When and where do they breed and nest? The Two-spotted Bumble Bee usually nests underground but may also nest in the cavity of a dead tree. They generally nest in dry and dark underground colonies comprised of 50 to more than several hundred bees. The cycle of life starts anew each year. A lone queen will emerge from an overwintering location. She will search for a suitable site to start a new colony. Having found a homesite, the queen collects pollen and lays her first brood of eggs. This brood will consist of entirely female “worker” bees. The task for these “worker” bees will be to collect pollen and nectar to feed their queen’s next brood. They have several primary responsibilities: community policing (protect the colony), property management (maintaining upkeep for the colony) and nanny detail (tending to the newly laid eggs and the young).

Where do they migrate? They do not migrate. New queens and males are produced in the late summer. Once mated, a new queen immediately prepares for hibernation by gorging herself on pollen and nectar. Queens will be the only ones to survive the winter. They will leave the nest and spend the winter hibernating in a new underground retreat.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Like that Beach Boys hit song – “Good Vibrations”, “good vibrations” are key to their buzzing sound! All bumble bees make that familiar buzzing sound. This sound occurs when the bee fastens its jaw to a flowering plant and move their flight muscles vigorously. This vibrating movement causes pollen grains to be released from the flower’s stamen, which adhere to the hair on the bee’s body, and results in the buzzing sound.

Interesting Facts About the Two-spotted Bumble Bee (and bumblebees in general):

  • Bumblebees move their wings quite rapidly at up to 240 beats per second.

  • There are approximately 46 species of bumble bees native to North America and 250 species worldwide with one thing in common: they are all dependent on flowering plants.

  • Bumblebee numbers are declining due to habitat loss, pesticides and diseases.

  • Diverse species of bumble bees have different lengths of tongues, which allow them to access flowers of various shapes and sizes.

  • Bumblebees do not tend to swarm.

  • Bumblebees hibernate underground.

  • Bumblebees will scent mark the flowers - leaving behind a message to others that the nectar is gone.

  • It is said, like in that Beach Boys song, by giving off “good vibrations”, bumble bees change the world one plant at a time!

  • Apparently, the male of this species serves one role, one time and is no longer really needed thereafter.

For more information on the Two-spotted Bumble Bee 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 U.S. Forest Service, Bee Spotter, U.S. National Park Service, Vermont Center for Ecostudies and Nature Mapping Foundation.

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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