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Bombus kirbiellus Curtis, 1835


Scientific Name: Bombus kirbiellus Curtis, 1835

Common Name: Golden-belted Bumble Bee


Bombus Kirbiellus Curtis, 1835: lxii (and plate A, figure 2) [♂, ♀].

     Lectotype , designated by P.H. Williams, in Williams et al. (2019: 34). “Arctic” - CANADA, Nunavut, probably the Boothia Penninsula isthmus [NHMUK, see Williams et al. (2019: 34)].

Bombus Kirbyellus Smith, 1854: 397. Unjustified emendation of Bombus Kirbiellus Curtis, 1835.

Bombus Putnami Cresson, 1878: 185 [♀]. Synonymy pre 1951

     Holotype . USA, Colorado, Alpine, July [no year provided], by J.D. Putnam [ANSP no. 2170].

Bombus putnamii Dalla Torre, 1896: 544. Unjustified emendation of Bombus putnami Cresson, 1878.

Bombus nivalis Packard, 1891: 447. Misidentification of Bombus nivalis Dahlbom, 1832 [= Bombus balteatus Dahlbom, 1832].

Psithyrus kodiakensis Ashmead, 1902: 130 [♂]. Synonymy of Bremus kirbyellus (Curtis, 1835) by Frison (1923:316).

     Holotype . USA, Alaska, Kodiak, 20 July 1899, USNM no. 5723.

Bombus atrifasciatus Morrill, 1903: 224 [♀]. Synonymy of Bombus kirbyellus Curtis, 1835 by Franklin (1913:291).

     Holotype . USA, Montana, Gallatin Co., 9,400 ft., July 1900, by R.A. Cooley [MCZ or Amherst, MA]

Bremus kirbyellus var. alexanderi Frison, 1923: 308 [♀]. Synonymy of Bombus balteatus Dahlbom, 1832 by Pittioni (1942: 179); synonymy of Megabombus (Megabombus) balteatus (Dahlmon, 1832) by Milliron (1973: 85); synonymy by Williams et al. (2016: 2).

     Holotype . USA, Arizona, Patagonia Mountains, 11 July 1917, by E.J. Oslar [INHS].

Bremus kirbyellus var. arizonensis Frison, 1923: 309 [♀]. Synonymy of Bombus balteatus Dahlbom, 1832 by Pittioni (1942: 179); synonymy of Megabombus (Megabombus) balteatus (Dahlmon, 1832) by Milliron (1973: 85); synonymy by Williams et al. (2016: 2).

     Holotype . USA, Arizona, Patagonia Mountains, 11 July 1917, by E.J. Oslar [INHS].

Bombus alexandri Richards, 1927:


Taxonomic notes: The unjustified emendation, Bombus Kirbyellus appears in many works, though can fisrt be attributed to Smith (1854: 397); Pittioni (1942: 179) attributes the first use to Erichson (see Curtis 1836a: 287), though it is spelled correctly in that work; Dr. Erichson appears to have only written the footnote for B. Kirbiellus appearing on pages 287-288, but does not spell the species name, while John Curtis (1836a) is the actual author.

Since Cresson (1887: 308) considered this taxon as a subspecies of Bombus balteatus Dahlbom, 1832 (as B. balteatus kirbyellus), Bombus kirbiellus Curtis, 1835 has long been regarded as part of the Holarctic species (e.g., Pittioni 1942: 179; Burks 1951: 1253; Hurd 1979: 2202; Thorp et al. 1983: 48; Williams et al. 2014: XX). Milliron (1973: 85) recognized both taxa within the Nearctic, with B. balteatus (as Megabombus balteatus (Dahlb.)) recorded from AK, CO, and NM in the United States, and YT, and AB in Canada, and B. kirbiellus (as M. kirbyellus (Curt.)) more widespread and recorded from AK, YT, NT, BC, AB, ON, QC, LB, and south in the Rocky Mountains to New Mexico. However, his separation of these taxa was based on very suble differences in both sexes (Milliron 1973: 84, 85), which Thorp et al. (1983: 49) said were not convincing. This of course is true for Nearctic specimens, as Williams et al. (2015: 2; 2019: 35) confirmed that they were separate species, with B. balteatus now considered a Palaearctic taxon occuring across the Bering Strait in Russia., and B. kirbiellus found in the Nearctic. However, Potapov et al. (2024) recently recorded Bombus kirbiellus from the Chukotka Peninsula (Lavrentiya, Lorino, and Alkatvaam), Russia, suggesting a more recent migration event, questioning the vicariance of these taxa.

Frison (1923: 309) described Bremus kirbyellus var. arizonensis Frison, 1923 as a melanistic variety of Bremus kirbyellus var. alexanderi Frison, 1923; both were considered valid subspecies of Bombus balteatus by Burks (1951: 1253). Milliron (1973: 85) subsequently treated these as synonyms of B. balteatus, which was followed by Hurd (1979: 2202) whoc also treated B. kirbiellus as a synonymy. Milliron (1973: 87) visited the type localy for Frison’s subspecies and thought them unfit for Alpinobombus (i.e., B. balteatus or B. kirbiellus), supporting the previous findings of Thorp (1970: 177), both considering the type locality for Frison’s Alpinobmus dubious (and see Thorp 1962: 25), and Milliron (1973: 87) suspected that they were likely caugth at higher elevations in the Colorado Rockies or high altitudes in New Mexico, but not Arizona

The original description of Psithyrus kodiakensis Ashmead, 1902 included two ♂s, and Ashmead (1902: 130) clearly indicated the assigned catalogue no. 57223 represented the holotype. Frison (1923: 316) indicated that he examined the ♂ type and paratypes, suggesting that he examined more than a single paratype.

Distribution in Canada: Curtis 1835 [Arctic North America, probably NU, Boothia Peninsula Isthmus, see Williams et al. 2019]; Couper 1883 [Canada]; Packard 1891 [LB, as Bombus kirbyellus Curtis, 1835, and as Bombus nivalis Dahlbom, 1832]; Ashmead 1902 [AK, as Psithyrus kodiakensis Ashmead, 1902]; Fletcher and Gibson 1908 [NU - [Cape] Fullerton, Hudson Bay, AB], 1908 [AK]; Franklin 1913 [AK, NT-NU (Boothia Peninsula), BC, AB, SK?, LB?, Greenland?]; Gibson 1918 [AB]; Lavery and Harder 1988 [ON, QC]; Williams et al. 2014 [AK, YT, NT, NU, BC, AB, MB, ON, QC, LB, as Bombus balteatus Dahlbom 1832], 2019 [AK, YT, NT, NU, BC, AB, MB, ON, QC, LB]; Sheffield and Heron 2019 [BC]; Gibbs et al. 2023 [MB].

Though Franklin (1913, as “?”) and Richards (1927) recorded this species (as B. balteatus) from Greenland, Pittioni (1942) indicated these were misidentified B. arcticus Kirby, 1824 [= B. polaris Curtis, 1835].



Ashmead WH (1902) Papers from the Harriman Alaska Expedition. XXVIII. Hymenoptera. Proceedings of the Washington Academy of Sciences 4: 117-274.

Dalla Torre CG (1896) Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Volume X: Apidae (Anthophila). Engelmann, Leipzig, 644 pp.

Smith F (1854) Catalogue of Hymenopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum, Part II, Apidae. London: Taylor and Francis.

Cresson ET (1878) Descriptions of new species of North American bees. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 30: 181-221.

Williams PH, Cannings SG, Sheffield CS (2016) Cryptic subarctic diversity: a new bumblebee species from the Yukon and Alaska (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of Natural History 50(45-46): 2881-2893.

Milliron HE (1973a) A monograph of the Western Hemisphere bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae; Bombinae). II. The genus Megabombus subgenus Megabombus. Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada 89: 81-237.

Curtis J (1835) Insects. Descriptions, etc. of the insects brought home by Commander James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S. &c. In: J Ross, Appendix to the narrative of a second voyage in search of a North-West Passage, and of a residence in the arctic regions during the years 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833, Baudry, London, pp. lix‒lxxx.

Morrill AW (1903) New Apoidea from Montana. The Canadian Entomologist 35(8): 222-226.

Sociality: Eusocial
Nesting: Ground
Pollen Specialization: Polylectic
Wintering Stage: Mated Female

Crop Preference: Not Available
Non Crop Preference: Not Available

Distribution: Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Labrador, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Yukon
Ecozone: Arctic, Boreal Cordillera, Boreal Plains, Hudson Plains, Montane Cordillera, Taiga Cordillera, Taiga Plains, Taiga Shield

Distribution Map