Bumblebee ID Simplified With Wallet Card
Wood January 28, 2008
Despite their colorful stripes and other distinctive markings, it's
not easy to tell one species of bumblebee from another.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) bee expert
Cane has helped make the differences among these plump, fuzzy pollinators a
little simpler to detect. The wallet-size bumblebee identification card he has
developed depicts 11 bumblebee species native to northern Utah and is intended
for use by scientists, growers, beekeepers, conservationists, gardeners, hikers
Cane is an entomologist with the
Pollinating Insect Biology, Management and Systematics Research Unit,
The card, along with instructions on how to use it, can be printed
Small, stylized diagrams show each bee's head, shoulders (or thorax)
and abdomen, as seen from above. Arrayed side by side and row upon row, the
simple drawings help the viewer distinguish differences in the color, shape,
size and position of each bumblebee's markings.
Colors and designs formed by the bees' soft hairs vary from black,
white or golden on the head; black circles or other geometric shapes on the
thorax; and bands or stripes of at least twoand sometimes
threecolors on the abdomen, from reddish-orange to gold, tan, black or
Bumblebees are hardworking pollinators, just like the familiar
European honey bee, Apis mellifera. But colony collapse disorder and
other tribulations have significantly reduced honey bee numbers, intensifying
the search by Cane and others to find alternative pollinators of crop plants.
Right now, only one bumblebee species is used commercially in the
United States as an agricultural pollinator, according to Cane and ARS
Strange at Logan.
Bumblebees also pollinate native plants and thus help preserve an
abundance and diversity of trees, shrubs, flowers and other vegetation in
wildlands, parks and gardens.
Cane developed the schematics in collaboration with Linda Kervin,
Logan; Robbin Thorp, Davis, Calif., and Matthew Shepherd, Portland, Ore.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.