Find world species by colour
(queens and workers) requires
Java runtime environment 1.5
key may take several minutes to load
it contains a large number of images.
be patient - you will need to wait until
the small Java applet window has closed
and all the images have loaded (irrespective
of what the progress bar says).
Aim - what this colour key can and can't
How to use this colour key
Colour differences between queens
- what this colour key can and can't do
aim for this key is to help in the identification of
female (queen and worker) bumblebees from anywhere in
the world to species.
colour patterns are often highly variable within species
but may be closely similar among species (see variation).
colour patterns when used alone are never
going to be sufficient to distinguish some species.
Nonetheless, colour patterns are used in most
keys as an important part of identifying bumblebee
this key can be used in the same way to find quickly
a small number of the most likely candidates for closer
Greater precision will then require the use of morphological
characters, such as of the male
genitalia, which can be more difficult to use. Often
identifying a specimen to subgenus first will increase
precision substantially (keys
to subgenera are available). In time, morphological
and colour characters will be integrated within one
key contains the more common colour patterns. It is
based on individual specimens actually seen (or in a
few cases, described in the literature), but no doubt
other colour patterns exist and therefore will not be
identified with this key. These patterns will need to
be added to make the key more reliable.
you encounter females with other colour patterns, please
send them as a loan so that they can be checked, coded
and included in the key.
bees may not be identifiable using this key for other
reasons. Bees that are wet or dirty, or have had their
hair rubbed off, will not be identifiable with this
key. Old bees that have spent a long time in the sun
may fade (e.g. from red to yellow, or from yellow to
nearly white) and so will not match the patterns of
the fresh specimens shown here. Occasionally, bees are
found that have very odd colour patterns, which are
not shown here. They may either be mutants (e.g. with
one or more colours completely missing), or may have
been damaged during development (e.g. chilling may cause
greying or additional pale bands to be added to the
inter-active multi-access design
of the key allows you to select which features to examine
and in which order to examine them.
can be particularly useful if the coloured hair is abraded
from some body regions.
key was constructed
with the Lucid 3.4 key-building software (see www.lucidcentral.org)
and is being run using
a Java applet.
This may require
an update of the Java software to be downloaded to your
computer (see Lucid's
help on Java). You may also be invited to register
with Lucid for news of updates, but this is not essential.
to use this colour key
You may wish to use the mouse to drag the partitions
between the subwindows to the bottom of the window to
increase the image display area.
a simple example, try the key with the common eastern
North American B. impatiens, which has a
yellow top to the head, thorax, and tergum 1, but
is otherwise black.
Begin by selecting the region
of the world from which a specimen originates. This
will shorten the key. To do this, expand the Features
tree in the upper left window by clicking the mouse
on '+' next to world region, and click the box
next to the appropriate region. Popup maps of the regions
are included if needed (check that popups are not disabled
by your browser
species' distributions do change, not least because
them to new regions, e.g. B.
terrestris, so if in any doubt as to whether
a species is indigenous, do not use this filter.)
If you know to which subgenus
the species belongs, this can also be selected and will
greatly reduce the number of options and risk of misidentification.
Keys to subgenera for
both sexes from morphological characters are available.
Next, ask for the most discriminating features by selecting
the toolbar button that shows an image of a wand. Alternatively,if
you want to choose another feature manually (e.g. because
the hair has been abraded from the best feature), then
you can expand the feature tree manually by clicking
on the '+' boxes in the feature tree and select another
feature and state. If
you do not know the subgenus and the wand (automatically
select most discriminating feature) function chooses
subgenera as the best option, then use the wand with
the right arrow (two buttons to the right) to ignore
subgenus and identify the next best feature.
Click the box with the state of a feature
colour of a colour-pattern
element) that most closely matches your specimen.
Clicking on the feature diagram will cause it to be
sure that your browser has popups activated)
Repeat steps 3 and 4 as often as necessary until the
one or more patterns that correspond most closely are
found. Clicking on an entity diagram in the right window
will cause it to be enlarged. Please see the Lucid website
for a complete explanation of the key functions (see
here are those in the annotated checklist
on these web pages (updated from Williams, 1998
[pdf]). Links will be added to online
of the discussion for each species status in this checklist.
differences between workers and queens
the great majority of species, workers and queens have
nearly identical colour patterns. Exceptions where workers
queens are usually and strongly different
include at least some B. argillaceus, B. digressus,
B. ephippiatus, B. festivus, B. friseanus, B. ladakhensis,
B. longipes, B. miniatus, B. pyrosoma, B. richardsiellus,
B. rubicundus, B. rufofasciatus, B. senex, B. simillimus,
and B. tunicatus. For these species, colour
pattern is usually diagnostic for separating queens
and workers. Queen patterns are only included here as
separate from workers where the queen patterns differ
substantially. This does not rule out the possibility
that workers with identical patterns will be seen in
of female cuckoo bumblebees (subgenus Psithyrus)
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