A Field Guide to the Bumble Bees of Washington State

The Vancouver bumble bee was identified as a distinct species in July of 2020.

Native pollinators are like the thread used in making a suit of clothes.  They are invisible without being carefully looked for.  They link together the various fabrics of our terrestrial systems, and without them, the systems will fall apart. *

*(author unknown, if you know, tell us and we will update for proper credit)

Welcome to our website

The focus of our site is on field identification of bumble bee species and all their various color morphs in Washington State. We hope it may also be useful in surrounding areas such as British Columbia, Idaho and Oregon.

We are publishing this website to help others more easily identify the bumble bees they encounter. Other identification tools tend to focus more heavily on taxonomic criteria best viewed through a hand lens, such as cheek pattern–and these are still sometimes needed for absolute confidence. We think that with focus folks can learn to identify the various species of bumble bees as easily as they do birds–remembering of course that some birds such as shorebirds and flycatchers can be challenging!

Among all of our pollinators, one group is well known to many, our humble bumble bees. Here in Washington state we have at least twenty five (25) species. The great majority of them are natives, a few of our natives are in severe decline or headed quickly to extirpation, and at least one is an introduced/invasive from the east coast, courtesy of British Columbia greenhouse growers of tomatoes.

Over the past few years there have been a series of field identification tools published for bumble bees including Bumble Bees of the Western United States, by Koch, Strange and Williams. The Xerces Society established the Bumble Bee Watch citizen science project to collect presence data of bumble bees. As part of Bumble Bee Watch, we have searched for, photographed, submitted and identified hundreds of bumble bees across the state of Washington as well as in Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Colorado.

We have also worked collaboratively with USDA Bumble bee researchers at Logan State University and others. We have used data provided by the USDA National Pollinating Insect Database for species presence and distribution.

In addition to field ID tips, we have included information on native bee conservation and gardening for bumble bees.

Don, Lisa and David

3 Responses to “A Field Guide to the Bumble Bees of Washington State”

  1. Katie Buckley says:

    I wanted to check if you guys were aware of the state’s pollinator health task force. I wanted to invite you to join in. We’ve already presented recommendations to the legislature, but are now getting into implementation.

    Let me know if you are at all interested.


    Katie Buckley

  2. Pamela A Martens-Cox says:

    Great resource for all things bumble bees. Thanks

  3. B. Bailey says:

    So glad to have found this guide; I love all bumblebees. Great pictures and lots of information!

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