Bombus impatiens

Geographic Range

Common eastern bumblebees, Bombus impatiens, are one of the most common bumblebees in North America. They can be found along the east coast from Ontario to Florida. Their range stretches west to North Dakota and eastern Texas. They are more common in the eastern part of their range. Common eastern bumblebees are used for greenhouse pollination in California and Mexico. (Colla, et al., 2011)


Common eastern bumblebees inhabit a broad habitat, including urban areas, suburban locations, and farmlands. Grasslands, forests, and marshes are also habitats of this species. Common eastern bumblebees can be found in cold temperate (northern United States) to warm subtropic (southern Florida) climates. They build their nests underground. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017)

Physical Description

Common eastern bumblebees have short, pale yellow hairs on their thoraxes and black hairs on their heads, abdomens, and legs. They have a slight interalar band that is made of dark hairs. Queen bees are 17-21 mm in length, males are 12-17 mm, and workers are 8.5-16 mm. Male bees have yellow faces, while the faces of females are black. Common eastern bumblebees have medium length tongues. They can be confused with eastern carpenter bees. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    8.5 to 21 mm
    0.33 to 0.83 in


Several eggs are laid, each in their own egg cell. Common eastern bumblebees develop for 25-35 days inside of their larval cells. Larvae undergo metamorphosis before emerging. (Cnaani, et al., 2002)


Common eastern bumblebees are a eusocial species. Queen bees are the only female bees to mate. (Cnaani, et al., 2002)

Colonies of common eastern bumblebees are annual and are founded by a single queen bee. They reproduce through sexual reproduction. After fertilized queens emerge from overwintering in the spring, they will build the colony alone. After the first brood of worker bees hatch, they will care for the young. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017; Cnaani, et al., 2002; Colla, et al., 2011)

  • Breeding interval
    Queen bees produce offspring from May until November.
  • Breeding season
    Common eastern bumblebees mate in the summer.


Queens of common eastern bumblebees live for a maximum of one year. Workers and males live for a much shorter time period. (KELEMEN, et al., 2019)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 12 months


Social and colonial, common eastern bumblebees can form unusually large colonies. Older generations of common eastern bumblebees forage for pollen during the day while younger generations care for the brood. While bees forage, they pollinate the plants from which they harvest pollen and nectar. In the nest, pollen and saliva are combined to produce honey to feed the colony. Male bees do not do any work. Common eastern bumblebees have a long flight season. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017; Jandt and Dornhaus, 2009)

Communication and Perception

Like other social bees, common eastern bumblebees communicate using touch, vision, chemicals called pheromones, and wing vibrations. Bees communicate about the safety of the nest, where food is, and what they should do. Like other bees, common eastern bumblebees can see ultraviolet light. (Jandt and Dornhaus, 2009)

Food Habits

Common eastern bumblebees consume the nectar and gather the pollen of a wide variety of plants. They have been found on goldenrods, pickerel weeds, thistles, boneset, and heartbreak grasses. Adult bees chew pollen grains with their saliva to produce honey. Larvae and the queen eat the honey. (Colla, et al., 2011)

  • Plant Foods
  • nectar
  • pollen

Ecosystem Roles

Like other bees, common eastern bumblebees are important pollinators. In the process of foraging, they pollinate the plants from which they harvest nectar and pollen. Parasitic members of their own genus, lemon cuckoos (Bombus citrinus), are nest parasites of common eastern bumblebees. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017; Colla, et al., 2011)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Common eastern bumblebees are used as a commercial pollinator outside of their native range. They are beneficial to humans because they are significant pollinators. (Balaban and Balaban, 2017)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Common eastern bumblebees may sting when they feel threatened. (Colla, et al., 2011)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



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


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.

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

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


the condition in which individuals in a group display each of the following three traits: cooperative care of young; some individuals in the group give up reproduction and specialize in care of young; overlap of at least two generations of life stages capable of contributing to colony labor


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


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.


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.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


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

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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.


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


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"


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


uses touch to communicate


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).

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.


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.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


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


uses sight to communicate


Balaban, J., J. Balaban. 2017. "Species Bombus impatiens - Common Eastern Bumble Bee" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed June 18, 2020 at

Cnaani, J., R. Schmid-Hempel, J. Schmidt. 2002. Colony development, larval development and worker reproduction in Bombus impatiens Cresson. Insectes Sociaux, 49: 164–170.

Colla, S., L. Richardson, P. Williams. 2011. Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States. Washington, D.C.: USDA Forest Service and the Pollinator Partnership. Accessed June 18, 2020 at

Jandt, J., A. Dornhaus. 2009. Spatial organization and division of labour in the bumblebee Bombus impatiens. Animal Behaviour, 77: 641–651.

KELEMEN, E., N. CAO, T. CAO, G. DAVIDOWITZ, A. DORNHAUS. 2019. Metabolic rate predicts the lifespan of workers in the bumble bee Bombus impatiens. Apidologie, 50: 195-203. Accessed June 19, 2020 at