Bombus vagans species complex

Hey all I have a question and would like some input from you all. We all spend an enormous amount of time IDing bombus as best as possible to accurately attribute data through Inat.

So, as we all probably know there is a major complication or lack of available confirmed IDs for vagans not to mention sandersoni because of the vagans/sandersoni dilemma. I should probably include perplexus in here as well but I am mainly interested in vagans/sandersoni.

I am interested in attributing better data for vagans and sandersoni rather than leaving these species simply at a subgenus level “Pyrobombus”. In North America Pyrobombus is comprised of 19 species and the largest subgenus in the world for bombus. Leaving those specimens we know are between the two or three species at a subgenus level IMO doesn’t really help the scientific community much. Sandersoni and vagans data is lacking partially because of the complexity of ID even more so where overlap occurs. As for being in the field unless you cool the specimen down (Place in a cooler) and carry a hand lens or microscope ID is rather difficult for accuracy. The other option is to kill the specimen and preform the same and or use genetics. Which is not always an acceptable practice and genetic analysis being quite expensive. When I am in the field, I have the opportunity to record the species as vagans/sandersoni if I am unsure which a lot of times can be the case in areas where high overlap occurs. Sometimes this includes perplexus as well.

On Inaturalist I normally do leave the species at subgenus “Pyrobombus” but I’m kind of conflicted about, it especially in some locations where sandersoni has never been recorded (Indiana, Illinois) and is likely to be absent. If it fits the bill it must be vagans and the data is lacking because no one wants to call a square a square by photo myself included, which is currently very understandable. But if the specimen fits the standard bill Longer hair - T1&2 yellow – long face/OMA (Generally speaking) including all other morphological attributes that we know vagans as. I think it’s safe to call these as they are. always keeping in mind rufocinctus (cullumanbombus) and perplexus and still the option of pyrobombus/ bombus. Areas I am unsure for sandersoni but is likely absent include Missouri, Nebraska, lower 2/3s Iowa, western Ohio, Arkansas. Maybe more areas to be included in this presumption where records of sandersoni do not exists?

For areas where overlap is likely or more so possible to occur in the United States what would it take to designate a species complex and have it accepted? Maybe labeling Bombus vagans species complex. For example, in subgenus thoracombus there is a designated species complex for B. fervidus, B. Californicus in the far west due to the similarities/extreme difficulty in properly IDIng to species level without genetic sampling for most people. The same is done in the UK for the Bombus lucorum species complex which is comprised of B. terrestris B. lucorum, B. magnus, and B. cryptarum. States in the U.S that might fit the bill would include but not limited to portions of MN/WI/MI/PA/NY/VT/NH/ME/CT/NJ/MD/DE/WV/VA/NC/KY/TN/NC/GA

I am bringing this to the table for discussion and input. I am one person here and do not want to create errors in data or upset the community but if the community agrees I would like to create the species complex so we can attribute better data in which is lacking and sort of open ended for these species currently. So, what do you all say? Am I crazy or irresponsible for the thought or what?

Also first time I have tried to create a form topic. Please let me know if I put this in the incorrect location.


Anyone to be included in this conversation but since I am new to the form board I can only tag two user names I guess.

Thank you all for your time.






It might make sense to create a flag (under “curation”) on the taxon page for the subgenus Pyrobombus asking about the creation of a species complex, and tagging users there. I suggest this because many people don’t use the forum. If there is relevant literature discussing the species you mention as a complex, including references/links will probably increase the chances that curators will decide it makes sense to add a species complex.


The appropriate place for these discussions is a flag on the parent taxon. I would support such a complex and there are certainly examples for other insects where this has been implemented.

Agree with the two above replies, flagging and then tagging everyone who you think would be interested in the flag is the right approach, especially since many of the folks tagged in this topic aren’t forum users and wouldn’t get a notification anyway.

Thanks all I guess I need to sign up to be an official curator to do this from what I am reading. which I will apply for now.

You do not need to be a curator to create a flag – only to add a taxon. (The link to create a flag is listed under “curation”, however")

ahh I see I figured out what you mean, Thanks!

The problem is species complexes aren’t just visually similar they are also genetically very similar (fervidus complex still has debate regarding californicus as a species). B vagans and sandersoni while being visually extremely similar are not that closely related and I don’t think would be accepted as a complex. Species group would work, but currently iNat doesn’t allow for that.

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closing to focus on the flag:

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