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Find world species by male genitalia
click on a subgeneric name:




Simplified subgeneric classification of the bumblebees (Williams et al., 2008 [pdf]). The phylogenetic tree for the subgenera of Bombus is based on an analysis of DNA sequence data for five genes (Cameron et al., 2007 [pdf] ). Only clades with strong support (Bayesian posterior probability >0.95) are shown.


Click here for a key to subgenera


15 subgenera

Male-genitalia images by subgenus
Background on male genitalia



Male-genitalia images by subgenus

In many cases, species can be identified most reliably from the male genitalia. The morphology of male genitalia has long been used to identify species as well as to study the relationships among bumblebees. The reason for this is that male genitalia were found to have many characters that show high levels of congruence (reviewed in Williams, 1985, 1991 [pdf ], 1995 [pdf]) especially when compared with colour patterns, so that they can be used to recognise species and groups of species (Williams et al. 2008).


Photographs of male genitalia have been added to these pages to aid identification (made by Andrew Polaszek using Synoptics photomontage). These are arranged on separate pages for each subgenus (accessed from the tree above).



Background on male genitalia

The photographs of male genitalia included here are taken from (upper image) the dorsal and (lower image) the posterior aspect (for a brief account of the adult morphology in general, and of the male genitalia in particular, see Williams, 1991 [pdf] ). The diagram below shows the terminology for the parts of the male genitalia of B. avinoviellus.



Equivalence of terms among authors for parts of the male genitalia:



Michener (1944)

Richards (1968)

Williams (1985) Michener (2000)
gonobase cardo gonobase
gonocoxite stipes gonocoxa
squama squama gonostylus
gonostylus lacinia volsella
spatha spatha spatha
penis valve sagitta penis valve



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