Bumblebee queens over-winter in small
cavities, and emerge in spring to produce one or more generations of workers that construct rambling, shallow-buried waxy nest complexes composed of dozens of interconnected globular cells. Of the 49 species known in the United States, 19 are found in the San Juan Islands. Since they are long-distance fliers undaunted
by water, bumblebees play a critical role in pollinating small isolated islands. Color patterns vary regionally, between nests, and between castes within nests.
Bumblebees like large showy flower but will also swarm on shrubs with many tiny flowers such as snowberry. Nimble and clever, they can open orchids, vetch, and other complexly folded flowers.
Named for its “black butt”, but also usually
conspicuously orange in the Islands, where
it is one of our most common bumblebees.
Bombus mixtus on Ladies Tresses orchid
This velvety black bee appears to prefer gardens to meadows, and is growing more abundant in the San Juan Islands.
A beautiful midsummer golden haired bee often seen in the islands, this one was seen at Orcas Landing nectaring on non-native Himalayan Blackberry.