Bumblebees of the World Blog Series… #10 Bombus brodmannicus

21/10/2019 0 By wildfeed

In the east B. brodmannicus can be found in north east Turkey and Armenia across the Caucasian mountains, where it can be quite locally abundant. In the West, the subspecies B. brodmannicus delmasi is restricted to high altitudes in the southern French Alps and a small number of nearby locations in Italy. The species is found on southern slopes of the southwestern Alps in subalpine and alpine zones supporting large patches of Cerinthe, its main food plant. The species is active very early in the morning and at sunset.

Bombus brodmannicus distribution map. Credit: Pierre Rasmont & Stéphanie Iserbyt

Last month we talked about how only three species of all bumblebees worldwide are considered as specialists on a particular food plant. Interestingly, the eastern population of B. brodmannicus, located in the Caucasian mountains is a generalist, while the remote subspecies found in certain valleys of the Western Alps (map above), B. brodmannicus delmasi is considered a specialist. This specialism was deduced from field observations reporting a marked preference of the subspecies for Cerinthe minor L. and Cerinthe glabra . Despite the species reliance on pollen from Cerinthe, it is also known to visit other plants such as Calamintha, Cerinthe , Epilobium, Scabiosa, Echium, Nepeta, Knautia and Stachys for nectar. This behavior is particularly relevant for males whose life-cycle is partly offset from the flowering Cerinthe.

Denis surveying for Bombus brodmannicus on a patch of their favoured food plant, Cerinthe in the Alps. Photo credit: Denis Michez.

The restricted distribution and food specialisation led to an assessment as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of European Bees. Because of its highly specialised foraging requirements and its already localised distribution in a small area of the Alps, the western population seems extremely vulnerable to warming from climate change. On the other hand, the eastern population is rather widespread in the Caucasian region with no apparent food specialisation. It is therefore much less vulnerable to climate change.

Links to further information

IUCN Redlist page

Atlas of European Bumblebees

Natural History Museum species account

Natural History Museum Bombus – Bumblebees of the world homepage

IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group


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