FWS Focus

Overview

Scientific Name

Bombus affinis
Common Name
Rusty-patched bumble bee
Rusty patched bumble bee
FWS Category
Insects
Kingdom

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Identification Numbers

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Characteristics

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Behavior

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Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Rusty patched bumble bees have been observed in a variety of habitats, including prairies, woodlands, marshes, agricultural landscapes and residential parks and gardens, as documented by S.R. Colla and L. Packer in 2008 and later by S.R. Colla and S. Dumesh in 2010. The rusty patched bumble bee requires areas that support sufficient food, including nectar and pollen from diverse and abundant flowers, as well as undisturbed nesting sites that are in proximity to those floral resources. These bees also require overwintering sites for hibernating queens, as documented by D. Goulson and others in 2015 and Potts and others in 2010.

Rusty patched bumble bee habitat can be divided conceptually into nesting and wintering, as well as foraging habitat types, based on the relative timing of pollen and nectar availability. The locations of pollen and nectar sources for the rusty patched bumble bee may vary throughout the growing season.

Nests

We assume that the rusty patched bumble bee nests in upland grasslands and shrublands that contain forage during the summer and fall and as far as 30 meters into the edges of forest and woodland. In 2019, J. Lanternman and others summarized 451 observations of nest-searching behavior by queens of nine bumble bee species. Although the rusty patched bumble bee was not among the nine species observed, their observations may shed some light on how the species searches for nest sites. J. Lanternman and others observed queens searching for nesting sites in open grassland habitats, but nest-seeking queens favored woody transitional habitats over open habitats.  

Rusty patched bumble bee nests are typically 1 to 4 feet underground in abandoned rodent nests or other mammal burrows and occasionally at the soil surface or aboveground, as documented by O.E. Plath in 1922 and later by R.P. Macfarlane in 1994. Among the 43 rusty patched bumble bee nest records cited by Macfarlane in 1994, 95% were underground. Queens may locate abandoned rodent burrows by using olfactory or chemical cues, as documented by Lanternman and others in 2019.

Overwintering

Little is known about the overwintering habitats of rusty patched bumble bee queens, but based on observations of other species we assume that rusty patched bumble bee queens overwinter in upland forest and woodlands. Other species of Bombus typically form a chamber in loose, soft soil, a few centimeters deep in bare earth, moss, under tree litter or in bare-patches within short grass and may avoid areas with dense vegetation, as documented by A.V. Alford in 1969 and later by A.R. Liczner and S. Colla in 2019. Overwintering habitat preferences may be species-specific and dependent on factors such as slope orientation and timing of emergence. Most queens in England were found in well-drained soil, shaded from direct sunlight in banks or under trees and free from living ground vegetation, as documented by A.V. Alford in 1969. A recent review of published literature shows that overwintering queens have been found mostly in shaded areas, usually near trees and in banks without dense vegetation, as noted by A.R. Liczner and S. Colla in 2019. The only known documented overwintering rusty patched bumble bee queen, discovered in a maple oak-woodland, which was about 0.5 kilometers into the woodlands, was in Wisconsin in 2016. It was found under a few centimeters of leaf litter and loose soil, as documented by B. Herrick from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Grassland

Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.

Wetland

Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.

Urban

Of or relating to cities and the people who live in them.

Rural

Environments influenced by humans in a less substantial way than cities. This can include agriculture, silvaculture, aquaculture, etc.

Forest

A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.

Grassland

Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.

Forest

A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.

Wetland

Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.

Urban

Of or relating to cities and the people who live in them.

Rural

Environments influenced by humans in a less substantial way than cities. This can include agriculture, silvaculture, aquaculture, etc.

Forest

A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.

Grassland

Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.

Wetland

Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.

Urban

Of or relating to cities and the people who live in them.

Rural

Environments influenced by humans in a less substantial way than cities. This can include agriculture, silvaculture, aquaculture, etc.

Forest

A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.

Grassland

Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.

Wetland

Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.

Urban

Of or relating to cities and the people who live in them.

Rural

Environments influenced by humans in a less substantial way than cities. This can include agriculture, silvaculture, aquaculture, etc.

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Food

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Physical Characteristics

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Life Cycle

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