Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 75–83 | Cite as

Delineating species for conservation using mitochondrial sequence data: the taxonomic status of two problematic Bombus species (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

  • J. S. Ellis
  • M. E. Knight
  • D. Goulson


Across Western Europe and North America, many bumblebee species are currently undergoing drastic declines in their abundance and ranges, primarily as a result of habitat fragmentation. In contrast, a smaller number of species are seemingly unaffected by this and remain common. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan-designated Bombus ruderatus belongs to the former group while B. hortorum belongs to the latter. These two species are sympatric and remarkably similar in morphology. There are no diagnostic characters for workers and male genitalia are illustrated with the same diagram in standard keys. Isolated records of putative B. ruderatus occur amongst a mass of records for B. hortorum. This raises two important issues: first, are B. ruderatus and B. hortorum ‘good’ species? Second, if they are, can the uncertainty over their identification be resolved? We present COII and cytochrome b mtDNA sequence data from these and other Bombus species. Molecular data and coat colour characters are in concordance and confirm that B. ruderatus and B. hortorum should be regarded as separate species (although coat colour alone is an unreliable diagnostic character for many individuals). Confirmation of the specific status of B. ruderatus allows the work on the conservation of this species to continue.


Bombus hortorum Bombus ruderatus bumblebees conservation genetics mtDNA sequence (cytochrome oxidase II, cytochrome b


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology and Evolutionary BiologySchool of Biological sciencesSouthamptonUK

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