Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 47:117–118; 2015


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Bumblebee identification is generally considered straight- forward, yet mistakes often are made due to the degree of similarity between the color patterns of different species. Bumble Bees of North America aims to improve the accuracy of identifications by both casual observers and professionals through the use of intuitive diagrams, descriptions, and the more technical dichotomous keys. In addition to providing the first complete field guide to North American bumblebees, the authors make efficient use of the reader’s attention by summarizing taxonomic history, favored food plants, and environmental issues concerning bumblebees.

Bumble Bees of North America is organized into three distinct sections. The first section of the book details the collective knowledge regarding bumblebees, delving into issues such as taxonomy, conservation, parasites, and host plants. The authors begin by introducing readers to the cultural and economic value of bumblebees, and follow by informing readers of evidence for population decline and extinction in certain bumblebee species. This combination almost perfectly explains why a scientist might study bees, and subsequently why they need to be able to differentiate bumblebee species (i.e., in order to effectively study bees, scientists have to be able to tell them apart). Next, the authors supply a condensed summary of historical publications on North American bumblebees. Unfortunately, some of the historical sources cited in this summary are not included in the “Additional Resources” section at the end of the book, leaving the readers to intuit the titles of those publications if they are interested in reading these historical resources. Salient features of the introduction include eye-opening figures illustrating global and North American bumblebee diversity, the intensity of bumblebee collection on the continent, and finally, the life cycle of bumblebees.