An early season bee that is rarely abundant, but widespread. Often one of the first to produce workers in late May/early June.

Identification: Despite the name, this species is usually relatively straight-forward to ID. The shade of yellow is best described as hard-boiled egg yolk and quite distinct from the pale yellow of other pyrobomus species. Queens and workers usually don’t have much, if any, black between the wings and have black ‘armpits’. Males are more variable and can be challenging.

Similar Species: Half-black Bumble Bee (Bombus vagans)/Sanderson’s Bumble Bee (Bombus sandersoni): These two species are nearly identical and similar to Perplexing Bumble Bees, however both have black between the wings, yellow ‘armpits’  and are a paler shade of yellow.

Lemon Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus citrinus): Males can be similar to Perplexing Bumble Bees in that they both often have complete yellow on T1-T3. Lemon Cuckoo have predominantly black hair on the face, whereas Perplexing Bumble Bees are much yellower. Males of the two species are unlikely to overlap much, as Lemon Cuckoo males don’t often appear before the end of August.

Global Status: Secure (G5)

Vermont Status: Apparently Secure (S4)


For more information, visit the following links:

Discover Life
Living Atlas Species Page



To see the global distribution, check out the iNaturalist account, and toggle the GBIF layer on the map.