Diversification pattern of the widespread holarctic cuckoo bumble bee, bombus flavidus (hymenoptera: Apidae): The east side story

Patrick Lhomme, Sarah D. Williams, Guillaume Ghisbain, Baptiste Martinet, Maxence Gérard, Heather M. Hines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent bumble bee declines have made it increasingly important to resolve the status of contentious species for conservation purposes. Some of the taxa found to be threatened are the often rare socially parasitic bumble bees. Among these, the socially parasitic bumble bee, Bombus flavidus Eversmann, has uncertain species status. Although multiple separate species allied with B. flavidus have been suggested, until recently, recognition of two species, a Nearctic Bombus fernaldae (Franklin) and Palearctic B. flavidus, was favored. Limited genetic data, however, suggested that even these could be a single widespread species. We addressed the species status of this lineage using an integrative taxonomic approach, combining cytochrome oxidase I (COI) and nuclear sequencing, wing morphometrics, and secretions used for mate attraction, and explored patterns of color polymorphism that have previously confounded taxonomy in this lineage. Our results support the conspecificity of fernaldae and flavidus; however, we revealed a distinct population within this broader species confined to eastern North America. This makes the distribution of the social parasite B. flavidus the broadest of any bumble bee, broader than the known distribution of any nonparasitic bumble bee species. Color polymorphisms are retained across the range of the species, but may be influenced by local mimicry complexes. Following these results, B. flavidus Eversmann, 1852 is synonymized with Bombus fernaldae (Franklin, 1911) syn. nov. and a subspecific status, Bombus flavidus appalachiensis ssp. nov., is assigned to the lineage ranging from the Appalachians to the eastern boreal regions of the United States and far southeastern Canada.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalInsect Systematics and Diversity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Insect Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Developmental Biology


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