Remember that the primary focus of this website is identification of FEMALE bumble bees: queens, workers and cuckoos. Information on male bumble bee identification will be added over time.
To assist you with this process, we have a photographic dichotomous key based on color morphs for bumble bees in Washington state. Using the key is a reliable way to get your bumble identified.
A good step is to leave this page and read “Field Identification Overview“. It is a one time read and then, once you understand the website’s organization, this page is the site to use for a quick refresher and future reference.
For background and context please also review the “Embedded Range Maps” page. This will provide a better understanding of what is being shown by the Range Maps included at the individual species level.
As a general overview, one starts by looking at the individual bumble and asking a series of questions including:
- Is it a bumble bee? (see page on Species Identification for tips)
- Does the bumble have a corbiculum? (if no, then male or cuckoo)
- Does the bumble show a lot of white (shoulder or end of abdomen)?
- Is the bumble primarily yellow in color?
- Is there red on the abdomen?
- If no red, is the bee striped?
- Does the bumble have the end of the abdomen black?
Based on where you stop on the series of questions, you click to the general page for the species that meet that criteria. For example, “Does the bumble show white” would lead you to the “Bumbles showing White” page. This page is an intro to the group, with photos of the various species showing White.
For more photos and identification tips on each species, you can then go to the individual species page (e.g., Western bumble bee, B. occidentalis).
In quite a few species of bumble bees males resemble females, so this identification site may still be useful.
In other species males have a very different color pattern. Bombus flavifrons and Bombus mixtus are such species.