Bumblebee identification HELP!

Asked August 7, 2018, 4:58 PM EDT

Hello, I became interested in bumblebees last year when a colony nested in a bird house in my garden. Up until then I couldn't tell the difference between bumblebees and any other kind of bee, nor did I know anything about them. A colony at my home got me interested in them and I began to notice different types of bees in my garden and their behaviors. This spring I began modifying my garden into a pollinator habitat and started an account with Bumblebee Watch. As of today I've got 7 verified species and 13 waiting to be looked over. I have a book on identifying bumblebees but I'm the blind leading the blind here - I know nothing about them and am trying to learn so I can be a better contributor. I can't find any online courses or videos. The Xerces Society had a training in Bend this summer but I was unable to attend. Can you suggest anything or refer me to another resource? Thank you!

Marion County Oregon bees

1 Response

Fantastic! I am sure you are not entirely "blind" and the only way to learn is to keep working at it. But bumble bee identification can be deceptive, particularly when it comes to males.

The definitive resource is Williams et al. Bumble Bees of North America:

The only problem with the guides is that there can be multiple geographic color morphs of the same species, so you end up with color patterns that may not be present in Marion County. There is a nice description of bumble bee color-morphs on one of the episodes of our podcast with Briana Ezray:

Xerces will be running workshops in Oregon in 2019. They have also posted their training material and resources available online:

The other thing to mention is that there is a whole lot more than bumble bees and there is another initiative that trains volunteers on how to survey and identify bees - the Oregon Bee Atlas. There is a group forming at Willamette University and you can register at the following website: