Bombus polaris

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Bombus polaris
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Bombus
Subgenus: Alpinobombus
Species: B. polaris
Binomial name
Bombus polaris
Curtis, 1835

Bombus polaris is a common Arctic bumblebee species.


This bumblebee has a wide circumpolar distribution, found in Canada, Arctic Alaska, Arctic islands (Devon Island, Ellesmere Island, Baffin Island and Greenland), northern Scandinavia and across Arctic Russia (Nenets, Yamalo-Nenets, Sakha and Chukotka).[1] As of 2015, B. polaris is common and is not listed as endangered.


The colouration is variable, but most often the thorax is black with orange-yellow edges, while most of the abdomen is orange-yellow, sometimes with a black tip.

The overwintering B. polaris is well adapted to intense Arctic cold, having dense fur that slows heat loss and also a bio-mechanical method of bringing its body to a much higher abdominal temperature than its temperate relatives. [2] The ability of B. polaris to fly in deep cold is due to a process called thermoregulation, by which it is able to easily raise its internal body temperature to as high as 38°C.[3] For this reason B. polaris is highly likely to out-compete any temperate bumblebee species that might seek to expand its northern range.

B. polaris is preyed upon by another, cleptoparasitic bumblebee, Bombus hyperboreus, which sometimes takes over the nests in cuckoo bumblebee fashion.[4]

Bird predators include buff-breasted sandpipers, common eiders, and long-tailed ducks.[5]


Overwintering usually occurs in mouse holes and similar subterranean crannies. In the summer nests are built. The queen only lives for one year.

Due to its cold tolerance the Bombus polaris appears to be one of the earliest pollinators of vegetation in the Arctic each year. Some plants they pollinate include Arctic poppies, Arctic roses, and Arctic willows. Their pollinator impact seems to be heaviest in the early spring. Samuel Robinson has found that, by the time most scientists arrive for the brief warm summers, the... "Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) and Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) were found to play a minor role in pollination, while flies (Dipterans) were shown to be the major pollinators." [6] One of the leading modern experts on B. polaris, Bernd Heinrich, agrees with this finding, saying that when "it gets warm, there’s a lot more fly pollination, and there’s actually some pollination by mosquitoes, as well."[7]


  1. ^ Discover Life. "Discover Life map of Bombus polaris". Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  2. ^ "Bumblebees found in North America". Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  3. ^ Anne Sutton, "The Brief Busy Life of the Arctic Bumblebee", Alaska Fish and Wildlife News, June 2012.
  4. ^ Milliron H.E., Oliver D.R. (1966) Bumblebees from northern Ellesmere Island, with observations on usurpation by Megabombus hyperboreus (Schönh.), Can. Entomol. 98:207–213
  5. ^ "Bio Arctic Bumblebee". Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Samuel Robinson, "Plant-Pollinator Interactions at Alexandra Fiord, Nunavut", Trail Six, Vol.5, 2011.
  7. ^ Anne Sutton, "The Brief Busy Life of the Arctic Bumblebee", Alaska Fish and Wildlife News, June 2012.

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