Northern amber bumble bee (Bombus borealis)

Apidae > Bombus > Bombus borealis

Northern amber bumble bee (Bombus borealis) is aptly named: this is a bee of northern latitudes with dark gold hair all over its body. This long-tongue species occupies open lands near forests, and seems to be increasingly widespread in recent years. We find them mainly on legumes with deep corollas like red clover in hay fields and beach pea along the coast. B. borealis superficially resembles B. fervidus, but has dark underwing hairs and a hairy yellow face that makes this field identification relatively straightforward.


May through September.


Widespread across northern latitudes and mountains in northern New England and southern Canada. Ranges south to western Massachusetts and around Ithaca, New York, with stray records down the Appalachians into Pennsylvania.


Size > honey bee

Workers: relatively large and dark yellow all over; yellow face and vertex; long face; wide black band across thorax; dark-gold hairs on T1-T5 with darkest hairs on T1-T3; crisp delineations between tergites

Gynes: like workers, but 2-3x larger

Males: like workers but with longer antennae

Similar species

  • B. fervidus is more lemon yellow in coloration and workers/gynes lack yellow on face.
  • B. pensylvanicus males have brighter yellow coloration; however, with the disappearance of B. pensylvanicus from previously-occupied areas, the ranges of these species currently have relatively little overlap.


Nests occur underground, though nesting biology is poorly known. Nesting habitat likely in northern forests and forest clearings given preference for foraging in open habitats, agricultural fields, gardens, and roadsides.


With a long face and long tongue, B. borealis has foraging preferences for deep flowers.  Often found on legumes like vetch (Vicia spp.), red clovers (Trifolium pratense), bea pea (Lathyrus japonicus), but also will forage on raspberry (Rubus spp.), thistles (Cirsium spp.), and jewelweed (Impatiens spp.).

Natural Enemies

Nesting biology poorly known.

Page last updated:
February 22, 2023