Bombus fervidus

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Geographic Range

Bombus fervidus is found throughout the northern part of the United States down to the northern portions of Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Populations are most concentrated in the North Eastern part of the United States. (Heinrich, 1979)

Habitat

The Golden Northern bumble bee lives and nest in grassy, open areas which include forest clearings and along roadsides. Nests are found both above and below the ground, however the above ground is most common. A nesting site is usually at least 50 meters from an area where food is plentiful enough to feed the entire colony. (Heinrich, 1979; Moran, 2005; Plath, 1934)

Physical Description

B. fervidus have a face and head which are mostly black, a black strip on their abdomen between the wings. The rest of the body is yellow. Their wings are dark and smoky colored. Male coloration differs slightly in that the abdomen contains slightly more yellow that fades into the thorax. All of these bees are covered with thick hair. Male bees grow up to 14mm long with a wingspan of 32mm. Female workers grow up to about 3/4 of an inch, while a queen may measure 1 inch with a wingspan of 4 cm. (Moran, 2005; Plath, 1934)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    14 to 20 mm
    0.55 to 0.79 in
  • Range wingspan
    32 to 45 mm
    1.26 to 1.77 in
  • Average wingspan
    36.00 mm
    1.42 in

Development

A Bombus fervidus queen will lay eggs in cells that she builds within the nest. At first, she will only lay between 8 and 10 eggs, one in each cell. When these eggs hatch, maggot-like larvae emerge. The larvae will grow, feeding on honey that the queen makes for them until they are ready to pupate. Then the larva will create cocoons for themselves where they will stay until they metamorphosis into adults. This usually takes from 16 to 25 days. Once the adult bees emerge from their cocoons, they are fully grown worker bees. Once the first generation of brood become workers, the queen can devote more of her time to laying eggs and workers become responsible for feeding both the developing larvae and the queen. With each new worker that helps feed the growing brood, more eggs can be laid. Therefore each generation of Golden northern bumblebee will be larger than the one before it. (Heinrich, 1979; Moran, 2005; Plath, 1934)

Reproduction

Male bumblebees, called drones, do very little work in the colony and seem to have a purely reproductive purpose. In the fall, males and newly hatched queens will mate. As the weather cools, the young queens will hibernate underground, and all of the other bees will die. In the spring, the young queens come out of hibernation and begin feeding on nectar and pollen. They will also start to build their nests out of thick grass. Inside her nest, the queen will make a wax honey pot that she will later fill with honey. After collecting enough pollen, she makes and deposits honey into the honey pot. Then she lays her first brood of 8 to 10 eggs. (Heinrich, 1979; Moran, 2005; Plath, 1934)

  • Breeding interval
    A single queen bee lives for one season, and produces offspring throughout.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in the summer months.
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years

Bombus fervidus queens care for their first brood themselves, while later generations are cared for by workers.

Lifespan/Longevity

Most B. fervidus do not live more than just a few months because of the toll that their work takes on their bodies. They also cannot survive harsh winter weather. Only queen bees live longer, living aproximately one year. (Plath, 1934)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 months

Behavior

Golden nothern bumlebees make honey that they feed to the queen and the developing brood. They make honey by chewing pollen and mixing it with their saliva. In order to collect enough pollen to feed the colony, workers spend lots of time foraging for nectar and pollen, and pollinating flowers in the process. Once a worker bumblebee emerges from its cocoon, it will spend the rest of its life caring for the queen and brood. Although the queen began the nest alone, workers will continue adding dead grass to the nest, as it must grow to accomodate the growing colony. Eventually, it will be large enough to resemble the nest of a field mouse. If the population of the colony grows too high however, problems arise that may result in newly emerged queens leaving the nest early, or even being killed by other workers before it is time for them to mate.

Male bees do not do any work in the nest and seem to have a purely reproductive purpose. Often, they will leave the nest and live independantly untill fall when they mate and die. (Heinrich, 1979; Moran, 2005)

Communication and Perception

This species of bumblebee, like many other kinds of bees, communicates mainly by performing special dances. These dances may include messages about the location of food or even a warning that danger is near.

There is also an indirect type of communication used by bees. When workers come back from gathering nectar, they regurgitate it and present it to other bees in the colony who then communicate whether or not the nectar is needed by either rejecting or accepting the nectar. (Heinrich, 1979)

Food Habits

Bombus fervidus is a nectarivore. These bees feed on the nectar of angiosperms and aid in the pollination of these plants. The bees' long tongues enable them to reach into long flowers, extracting the nectar before another competitor has the chance. These bees are also very quick workers. Thier quickness is sometimes harmful to their health, as they sometimes work for too long at the rapid pace that is normal to their species, and have been known to die of exhaustion.

This particular bumble bee searches for food during the afternoon in the heat of the day. One individual of B. fervidus has been known to visit as many as forty-four flower blossoms per minute. Each visited blossom contains around .05 mg of sugar, if it has not been previously foraged by other insects. Bombus fervidus can extract around 2.2 mg of sugar per minute. In addition to nectar, adult bees will chew pollen grains mixing them with saliva in order to make honey. This honey is then fed to larvae and the queen. Because of their fast work, these bees can have very high populations.

Foods eaten: Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Common Milkweed, Queen Anne's Lace, Dandelions, Bull Thistle, Goldenrod, Jewelweed, Devil's Beggartick, Joe-pye Weed, Climbing Bittersweet, Black Willow, Yellow Poplar, American Holly, Ragweed, Greater Bladderwort, Blueberry, Jimsonweed, Honeysuckle, Rose Mallow. (Heinrich, 1979; Moran, 2005)

  • Plant Foods
  • nectar
  • pollen

Predation

Although there are many would-be predators of Bombus fervidus, they have many different ways with which to protect themselves. If an intruder breeches the nest, bees will cover the entruder with honey. If a bee is slightly alarmed while in the nest, but can not yet fly, she will lift up her middle legs. If she gets even more upset, she will lie on her back and place her legs and feet in a position, implying that she is preparing herself for whatever may come next, and point her stinger in the air, her mandibles flaring. Mature adults will leave the nest to sting and bite the attacker. Remember, bumblebees do not lose their stingers, or their lives once they sting as honeybees do. Therefore, a bumblebee can sting an attacker many times in succession, giving the bee a better chance of survival. Members of this species have also been known to defecate on a threatening creature.

One very successful parasite of all Bombus species is Bombus ashtoni. This species of bee lives within the nest, eating the eggs of it's host and allowing the bumblebee workers to care for its brood instead of their own. (Heinrich, 1979; Moran, 2005)

Ecosystem Roles

This bumblebee is an important pollinator of many plants. (Plath, 1934)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Bombus fervidus positively benefits humans because this species pollinates many flowers, some including major plant crops we harvest for food. (Heinrich, 1979; Plath, 1934)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The only adverse quality B. fervidus has is that it stings humans whenever it feels threatened by them. (Heinrich, 1979)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • bites or stings

Conservation Status

Bombus fervidus, like most bumblebees, is considered to be in decline and in need of conservation, but it is not listed as a threatened or endangered species at this time. (Goulson, et al., 2008)

Other Comments

Because bumblebees' stingers have been so effective from the very beginning, there has been little evolutionary change in their method of defence. (Heinrich, 1979)

Contributors

Sara Diamond (author, editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Julia Aleman (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

delayed fertilization

a substantial delay (longer than the minimum time required for sperm to travel to the egg) takes place between copulation and fertilization, used to describe female sperm storage.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nectarivore

an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

polymorphic

"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

semelparous

offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

sperm-storing

mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

venomous

an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Goulson, G., G. Lye, B. Darvill. 2008. Decline and Conservation of Bumble Bees. Annual Review of Entomology, 53: 191-208. Accessed August 20, 2012 at http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.ento.53.103106.093454.

Heinrich, B. 1979. Bumblebee Economics. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press.

Michener, C. 2000. The Bees of the World. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Michener, C., R. McGinley, B. Danforth. 1994. The Bee Genera of North and Central America (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Moran, M. 2005. "Golden Northern Bumble Bee" (On-line). Study of Northern Virginia Ecology. Accessed February 17, 2005 at http://www.fcps.k12.va.us/StratfordLandingES/Ecology/mpages/golden_northern_bumble_bee.htm.

Plath, O. 1934. Bumblebees and Their Ways. New York: The MacMillan Company.