Bumble bees are perhaps some of the most familiar and charismatic insects on the planet. Their teddy bear like appearance, docile demeanor, and helicopter-like buzz make them a joy to observe as they fly from flower to flower. From mid-April to early October, bumble bees can be found gathering the flower pollen and nectar that serves as their sole food source. Wisconsin is home to approximately 20 species of bumble bee.
What are bumble bees?
Bumble bees are members of the insect order Hymenoptera – the ants, bees, and wasps. This extraordinarily diverse group of insects contains over 150,00 species, of which about 25,000 are true bees in the family Apidae. Members of Apidae are characterized by dense, branched hairs that cover their bodies and the fact that all must visit flowers to gather food in the form pollen and nectar (with the exception of a few cleptoparasitic groups). Bumble bees are a genus within Apidae that are characterized by a body covered in dense hairs of various colors, including black, yellow, orange, brown, and white.
Bumble bee diversity
There are nearly 250 species of bumble bee world wide, with that diversity concentrated primarily in the northern hemisphere. In the US, 46 species are native, most of which can be found in the inter-mountain west and west coast. In Wisconsin, we have 20 historical species found here, with 15 still commonly found, throughout most of the state.