A simplified subgeneric classification of the bumblebees (genus Bombus)

Paul H. Williams, Sydney A. Cameron, Heather M. Hines, Bjorn Cederberg, Pierre Rasmont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


A system of subgenera has been widely used for nearly a century to communicate ideas of relationships among bumblebee species. However, with 38 subgenera in recent lists for about 250 species, the system has come to be seen as too complicated. In this paper we suggest four criteria to guide the process of simplifying the subgeneric system, so that ideally subgenera should become: (1) monophyletic; (2) fewer; (3) diagnosable from morphology; and (4) names for important behavioural and ecological groups. Using a new strongly-supported estimate of phylogeny for almost all bumblebee species, we apply these criteria to reduce the system to 15 subgenera, and we assess the consequences. Ten new subgeneric synonyms are recognised. Keys to identify adult bumblebees to the simplified subgenera are provided for both sexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-74
Number of pages29
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Insect Science


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