for Identification

Learn How to

Master Photographing Bumble Bees with a Mobile Device

In this series of video tutorials you will learn three different techniques for photographing bumbles bees for identification. While the material focuses on using a mobile device it is applicable to any type of photography. You will also learn how to become a citizen scientist by uploading these images to iNaturalist and joining the Bumble Bees of Ontario iNaturalist project.


General Tips & Safety

Photography Techniques

Submitting to iNaturalist

Free Pocket Guide

This handy – downloadable and printable – pocket guide contains all of the most important information about how to photograph bumble bees for identification. It also has photos and descriptions of Ontario’s three at risk bumble bee species. Read these carefully as you might be the first person to spot a Rusty-patched Bumble Bee in Ontario since 2009. Yellow-banded Bumble Bee sightings are also highly sought after. Instructions on how to fold the guide are included.

Download the PDF


Yellow-banded Bumble Bee

Bombus terricola

The Yellow-banded Bumble Bee is a medium-sized bumble bee with a distinct yellow and black abdominal band pattern found on its queens, males, and workers. It is also a nectar robber, which means it will bite holes at the base of flowers to gain access to their nectar. It has undergone steep declines leading to SAR designation. Little is known about its northern abundance and records from Northern Ontario are very helpful. They can be found from mid to late March to mid October.

Ontario Species at Risk page for Bombus terricola

Bombus affinis


Rusty-patched Bumble Bee

Bombus affinis

The Rusty-patched Bumble Bee used to be one of the most common bumble bees in Ontario. Like most bumble bees, it is yellow and black, but males and workers have a distinctive rusty-coloured patch on the second segment of the abdomen. They can be found from mid to late March to early November. Last reported sightings were from the Pinery Provincial Park area in 2009.

Ontario Species at Risk page for Bombus affinis


Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee

Bombus bohemicus

The Gyspy Cuckoo Bumble Bee does not collect pollen as it is a parasitic species. What does this mean? They take over the nests of other bumble bees and utilize the workers of the host nest. The decline of host species, particularly Bombus affinis and Bombus terricola, is considered the main threat to this species. Both females and males range from 12-18 mm in length with a white-tipped abdomen and similar colour pattern. They can be found from April to October.

Ontario Species at Risk page for Bombus bohemicus

SAR Bumble Bee Wallpapers

Download a set of high quality phone wallpapers of Ontario’s three SAR bumble bees.

All three as a zip
Bombus affinis
Bombus bohemicus
Bombus terricola

SAR Bumble Bee High Res Images

Download a super high resolution set of Ontario’s three SAR bumble bees.

Click to Download

Manual Focus on iOS

The default camera application on iOS does not provide a macro mode. Here are two apps you may want to try. Halide is referenced in the videos and its focus peaking feature is a huge help.


Halide Camera

Premium app


Free app

Manual Focus Setup

Manual Focus on Android

Android device manufactures tend to customize the camera app to some degree. Most however have some form of “pro” mode that you can enable. It is recommended that you research your specific device however here is one article that shows you how to enable this feature on Samsung Galaxy phones.


Camera FV-5 Lite

Free app

Requires Android 5+

Other Organizations

Bumble Bee Watch
Amazing group pioneering bumble bee tracking through citizen science

Ontario Nature Pollinator Campaign
Has a great free poster of  pollinator friendly plants

Xerces Society: Bumble Bee Conservation
Tons of information related to bumble bees

Get in Touch

Have a question or a comment? Fill out the form to get in touch. We will try to help in anyway we can.

Special Thanks

Tyler Lemermeyer, Karissa Chandrakate, Gen Pintel, Ewen Lewis, Sheila Colla PhD, Victoria MacPhail, Meagan Tompkins, Andres Jimenez Monge, Samantha Stephens, Steven Paiero, University of Guelph, Randal Van Gerwen, Sarah McGuire

Assistance for this project was provided by the Government of Ontario