Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Saskatchewan Bumblebees Species List

I had a fabulous time hanging out with the members of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society in Saskatoon. It was an inspiring experience, and has got me all fired up about protecting our beloved prairie bees. There is a surprising number of bumblebee species in Saskatchewan, with different species found in the different bioregions. For details on where the species have been found, be sure to check out Philip S. Curry’s book: Bumblebees of Saskatchewan (Hymenoptera: Apidae) a survey of their geographic distribution. May thanks to Philip and Cory Sheffield for helping me compile a list of Saskatchewan bumblebee species to date. (Any errors are my own!)
There are 26 species of bumblebees in Saskatchewan. Four are cuckoo bees that parasitize the nests of true bumblebees. Four of the true bumblebees are long-tongued with tongues longer that that of the honeybee tongue, which is about 7 mm in length. Five species of the bumblebees are short-tongued with tongues less that 7 mm long.
Long-tongued bees will favor flowers with long corollas in your garden, such as Mondarda fistulosa, the bee balm that is native to Saskatchewan. Plant lots of it!!!!! Add in some other fabulous Monarda species for your best edible bee-feeding bouquets. The medium-tongued bees will feed on your Echinacea purpurea and dip into the flowers with deeper nectaries if they are full to the brim, using the capillary action of their tongue to lap up the sweet stuff. The larger-bodied bumblebees and the queens also like Echinicea purpurea because the flowers can support their weight. The smaller-tongued bees will chew holes in the wild bee balm and rob the nectar without pollinating the flower and they will dip into the smaller flowers and all the asters (gaillardia, grindelia, goldenrod, sunflowers, etc.) with their tiny florets. The rare Bombus occidentalis, which has a short tongue loves the pincushion flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea).  So have fun creating biodiversity in your prairie garden to make it hum with choirs of bumblebees!

Saskatchewan Bombus (Alphabetical Order)

1: White-Shouldered Bumble Bee (Bombus appositus)
Subgenus: Subterraneobombus (long-tongued)
2: Two Form Bumblebee aka Black-notched Bumblebee (Bombus bifarius)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
3: Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus bohemicus) includes Ashton’s Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus ashtoni) --Endangered
Subgenus Psithyrus
4: Northern Amber Bumble Bee (Bombus borealis)
Subgenus: Subterraneobombus
5: Central Bumble Bee (Bombus centralis)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (long-tongued)
6: Fernald’s Cuckoo Bee (used to be Bombus fernaldae now B flavidus)
Subgenus: Psithyrus
7: Yellow-fronted Bumble Bee (Bombus flavifrons)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
8: Golden Northern Bumble Bee (Bombus fervidus) (including B. californicus)
Subgenus: Thoracobombus (long-tongued)
9: Frigid Bumble Bee (Bombus frigidus)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
10: Brown-belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollis)
Subgenus: Cullumanobombus (medium-tongued)
11: Hunt's Bumble Bee (Bombus huntii)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
12: Indiscriminate Bumble Bee (Bombus insularis)
Subgenus Psithyrus
13: Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (short-tongued)
14: Black Tail Bumble Bee (Bombus melanopygus) aka red-rumped
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
15: Fuzzy-Horned Bumble Bee (Bombus mixtus)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
16: Nevada Bumble Bee (Bombus nevadensis)
Subgenus: Bombias (long-tongued)
17: Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentalis occidentalis)--Threatened
Subgenus: Bombus (short-tongued)
18: Confusing Bumble Bee (Bombus perplexus)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (short-tongued)
19: Red-belted Bumble Bee (Bombus rufocinctus)
Subgenus Cullumanobombus (short-tongued)
20: Sanderson's Bumble Bee (Bombus sandersoni)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued*) IUCN*
21: Sitka Bumble Bee (Bombus sitkensis)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
22: Suckley's Bumble Bee (Bombus suckleyi)
Subgenus Psithyrus
23: Red-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus sylvicola)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
25: Special Concern--Yellow-banded Bumble Bee (Bombus terricola)
Subgenus: Bombus (short-tongued)
26: Half-black Bumble Bee (Bombus vagans vagans)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)

Cory Sheffield
 Bumblebees of Saskatchewan (Hymenoptera: Apidae) a survey of their geographic distribution by Philip S. Curry, 1984.
Discover Life (
Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre ( a survey of their geographic distribution.
Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide by Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson, Sheila R. Colla, March 23, 2014 Princeton University Press.