Apidae (bees) in the order Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps)

A large, fuzzy or hairy bee with a black and yellow (sometimes orange), usually banded, coloration. Females have pollen baskets on the last pair of legs. The buzzing sound bumblebees make is caused by vibrations of the wing muscles inside the insect's body, and not by the wings themselves.

Similar species: Carpenter bees, which carve nest holes in dead wood, are rather similar in size and shape, but they have shiny black abdomens, while bumblebees have fuzzy yellow-and-black-banded abdomens.

Length: about 1/2 to 1 inch.
Habitat and conservation: 
Bumblebees usually nest in cavities below ground (frequently rodent burrows), but nests may also be in brush piles, trash heaps, bird houses and so on. In the day, they are commonly seen foraging among flowers for nectar and pollen. Bumblebees often sleep at night by clinging to the underside of a leaf.
Adults eat nectar, and pollen and honey are fed to the young. Honey and pollen may be stored in vacant nest cells. Edwin Way Teale described the specialized "corbicula" structure on the hind legs of bumblebees and honeybees as "baskets for carrying pollen home from the fields." Despite their many similarities to honeybees, bumblebees don't overwinter as a hive and thus don't stockpile much honey.
Distribution in Missouri: 
At least six species of bumblebees occur in Missouri. Nests rarely have more than a hundred workers at a time, and unlike honeybees, bumblebee hives don't usually survive the winter.
Life cycle: 
In spring, a single fertilized female (queen) builds a large, irregular cell of wax and pollen and stocks it with pollen and nectar. Several eggs are laid in the cell; the female then enlarges it and supplies the young with additional food. She speeds the development of her eggs and young by incubating them. They will become workers and take over the pollen and nectar collecting, feeding young and other nest duties. Only future queens survive the winter by hibernating in the ground.
Human connections: 
Bumblebees are important pollinators, which is significant for humans agriculturally, horticulturally and environmentally. Some plants can only be pollinated by bumblebees. Red clover, an important fodder and traditional medicinal plant, is rarely pollinated by other bees.
Ecosystem connections: 
Bumblebees, like many other pollinators, have certain plants that depend only on them for pollination. Bumblebees have many other interrelationships with organisms that most of us are scarcely aware of, which all have their own role in the chain of life.