|scientific name Bombus melanopygus |
common name Orange-rumped Bumble Bee
Underground nests in Cordilleran forest and Boreal-Cordilleran transition zones and common on alsike clover Trifolium hybridum L. (Hobbs 1967). There are some reports of surface nesting (Thorp et al. 1983).
Flight period of queens ranges early February to late October; workers: early April to early September; males: early May to early September (Thorp et al, 1983).
Bombus melanopygus belongs to the diverse subgenus Pyrobombus Dalla Torre which is characterized by a malar space of medium length but longer than its apical width and antennal flagellum 2.5 to 3x the length of the scape. The penis valves of the males are usually hook shaped (Thorp et al., 1983).
Bombus melanopygus has a large body densely covered in long, fine pile (Franklin 1912). Abdominal segment 1 is yellow, segments 2 and 3 are red or orange, and the remaining segments (4-6) are black. The anterior scutum and the vertex of head and face are covered in a mixture of black and yellow pile and appear clouded (Thorp et al. 1983; Curry 1984). Males tend to have less black pile on the face and the third antennal segment is shorter than the fifth but longer than the fourth (Franklin 1912). Body size and wingspan varies between castes: queens are 15 to 18 mm with wingspans of 29 to 36 mm, workers range between 11 to 15 mm with wingspans of 25 to 29 mm, and males are 9 to 13 mm with wingspans of 21 to 26 mm. Wings are darkly stained brown (Franklin 1912). The penis valve is rounded at the apex with a sharp angle at middle of apical curvature. The gonostylus is short and sternite 8 is uniformly thick (Thorp et al. 1983).
Bombus melanopygus has an annual colony cycle. Queens emerge in early February from shallow hibernacula dug into the soil to forage and find suitable nest sites, often in abandoned mouse nests. Pollen is collected and manipulated by the founding queen into a ball. Eggs are laid in vertical rows on the top of the ball and covered over with pollen and wax. A nectar pot previously constructed allows the queen to feed while incubating the brood clump at 30-32° C. Larvae hatch after 4-5 days and begin to feed on the pollen mass. The queen continues foraging and regurgitates nectar to the larvae through openings on the top of the brood cells. After 4 molts, larvae spin loose silk cocoons and pupate. The queen now lays a second and third batch of eggs on top of the pupal cocoons using the pollen and wax from the first batch. Female workers emerge 4-5 weeks after the first eggs are laid and take over foraging and nest construction activities. The queen now exclusively constructs egg cells and lays eggs. As the colony expands upwards and outwards and workers increase in number, fertilized eggs become young queens and males emerge from unfertilized eggs. Caste differences are physiological and large numbers of workers are able to provide the food necessary to rear queens. Males are often produced before the new queens and will leave the colony almost immediately after emergence. Young queens may perform both nest and foraging duties prior to mating. Both sexes mate multiple times. Males will mount the queens in the air and continue coitus for several minutes on a nearby surface until kicked off by the female. Once mated, queens prepare for hibernation by eating and increasing vital fat body reserves. The colony declines in late October; workers, males, and the original queen die. The newly mated queens overwinter in small cells in the soil in preparation for spring. (Adapted from Alford 1975 and Thorp et al., 1983).
Unknown (Cane and Tepedino 2001).
Polylectic, adults consume nectar and pollen from a variety of 61 plant families, primarily Salicaceae, Violaceae, Compositae, and Leguminosae in California (Thorp et al., 1983).
Western Nearctic region (Williams 1996).
Common enemies include the parasitic cuckoo bumble bee (Psithyrus spp.), which will kill the queen and usurp an established colony. The principle parasite of the nest is the sarcophagid fly Brachicoma (Thorp et al., 1983).
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