Bee No 2: Tricoloured Bumble Bee: Bombus ternarius

This is the most delightfully pretty bumble bee and chosen purely because of its lovely markings, with a cream heart on its thorax and brilliant red/orange bands.
They look a bit like little fuzzy bottle brushes. The “ternarius” in its name refers to the three abdominal colours of red yellow and black.
They are also called the Red tailed Bumble Bee, and the Orange Belted Bumble Bee.

The facts;

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
GENUS: Bombus. Bumblebees
SPECIES: Bombus ternarius

They are also sometime classified in the subgenus .. Pyrobombus.. I would like to think because of their fiery colour.
This is a small northern USA Bumble Bee, a worker just 8-13 mm, which according to the books, range from the Yukon to Nova Scotia, and south to Georgia, they are widespread but rarely observed south of Pennsylvania.

They like the flowers from the Rubus family: i.e. blackberries and raspberries, and the Vaccinium family; i.e. blueberry bilberry and huckleberry and are partial to Goldenrod too.

Orange-belted bumble bee, Bombus ternarius from University of Maine

“The orange-belted bumble bee queen emerges from hibernation in early spring. She must satisfy two immediate needs. She must nourish herself on flower nectar and pollen, and she must find a good place to raise a family. Queens spend hour upon hour cruising just above the ground looking for a suitable nest site underground, often settling in an abandoned mouse burrow.”

However, Linda Robb’s bees found themselves higher class accommodation by moving into her bird house. I have seen a couple of other references to Bumble Bees taking over bird boxes. What a nice idea.


This lovely photo of the Bombus ternarius colony by Linda is from her,entry, read more here….

This little bee just had to be drawn from above to show off its markings. Its “pile” is shorter than Bee No1 and these are chubby, neat little bees. Some initial sketches, to look at the colouring and the pose.

Bombus tricolour pencil sketch sm     tricol sketch sm

And the final painting…



Bee number 2: The Tricoloured Bumble Bee, Bombus ternarious.


Bombus Ternarius bee 2 sm

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  1. Insect drawings usually leave me either cold or cross but these are lovely – detailed but with character; charm is there but sentimentality is not.

    The bees around the bird box somehow give an aura of being at home; in the right place.


  2. I love how your camera picked up the sheen of purple on the one bee's iridescent wing – quad colored! I love bees and have allowed a colony of them to live in my crawl space for years. What's really strange is that there are now two species living there – a very large bumble bee (the largest bumble bee I have ever seen – still really gentle) colony has been there since we have owned the house, and more recently a honey bee colony has moved in with them.

  3. Thanks to you both.. This really is the prettiest little bee.

    Lucy. I am glad you like this bee. I do try to get something of the character that I perceive.. sometime it communicates, sometimes it doesnt.. that's the problem with art..its so subjective.

    Sylvana. Hi to lovely to have the bees.. hope they are tucked up snug after your cold weather!..wonder if your big bee is a carpenter bee?

  4. Strumelia .. wow those are really wonderful photos thank you so much, What a very pretty bee it is ! very neat and very furry!

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