Pyrobombus (also known as Fiery-tailed bees) is a subgenus of bumblebees, with its centres of diversity in Central Asia and north-western North America.[1] Nearly a fifth of all Bombus species fall within Pyrobombus and its member species vary considerably in size, appearance and behaviour.[2] They cover 43 species of bees and It is the largest subgenus of Bumblebees and covers almost 50% of the North American fauna.[3] They are seen to be declined by 6%[4], which may be an undervalued statistic, although not as high as other groups of bees, Pyrobombus bees also face issues such as climate change, loss of habitat, urbanization, and industrial agriculture.[5] This subgenera of bees can pollinate that helps plants fertilise and grow fruit that is essential to the biodiversity and life of the environment. Commonly, Pyrobombus bees are used for bee-keeping as they are pollinators. It can be for wax, honey, venom, combs, and such which may be collected for commercial use.[6] This subgenus may vary in their characteristics such as body size, wing-span, and tongue length for individual species, but like all bees, they possess wings, a head, thorax, and abdomen. However, for a reason, this subgenera is distinguished. Reasons may be their morphology, phylogeny, geographic distribution, and other unique characteristics and behaviour. The study of bees is also known as Melittology or Apicology which Is a branch of entomology that concerns insects.  

Bombus pratorum-01 (xndr).jpg
Bombus pratorum
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Bombus
Subgenus: Pyrobombus
Dalla Torre, 1880 [1][2]
Type species
Apis hypnorum
Linnaeus, 1758


The Pyrobombus are fairly small bees. They are the largest subgenus group of the Bombus and it is the most diverse in its morphology. Along with its diversity, there are few similarities between the species. The Pyrobombus varies in tongue length, head shape, mouth-parts, wings-pan and such. The coat color of the Pyrobombus is physically similar to other bees in different subgenera under the Bombus, with black, yellow, and orange pattern arrangements and with some species, the coat can have white patches and or stripes. Like all bees, species of the Pyrobombus have translucent wings that can have different colour tinges of clear, black, brown and amber.

Phylogeny  Edit

Reasons for investigating the origins of the Pyrobombus bees can be due to questionable physical resemblance between the species and enzymes. Some studies of the Pyrobombus phylogeny concludes this subgenus may not be monophyletic and is instead polyphyletic, where it shares multiple evolutionary ancestors, however, it is argued results that lead for the nature of the Pyrobombus to be polyphyletic may be due to a smaller taxon representation.[7] In the study by Hines, Cameron and Williams, they have gathered a larger taxon representation to investigate the phylogeny of the Pyrobombus, and conclude that the phylogeny of the subgenus; Pyrobombus to be monophyletic. They were able to analyze 36 of the 43 recognized species. There are numerous studies that have supported the Pyrobombus are paraphyletic and suggest the Pyrobombus belong in 2 different phyletic lines.[8] In a study by Plowright and Stephen (1973) have examined 18 different enzymes and found the taxon sample had close relationships with B.Jonellusfrom and B.Frigidus. Their studies have also aligned with other independent researchers.[3]

"More extensive molecular analyses suggest Pyrobombus is monophyletic and most closely related to Bombus s.s. and Alpinobombus." (Williams, Paul. 2006)[7]

"A genus-wide phenetic study of wing venation by Plowright and Stephen (1973) resulted in a polyphyletic Pyrobombus, with some species more closely related to species of the subgenera Melanobombus." (Williams, Paul. 2006)[7]

Habitat and nesting  Edit

Underground bee nest.

Principally, Pyrobombus bees have their nests underground rather than the surface, which is common amongst the Bombus. In design, the Pyrobombus constructs it's nest with no elaborate entrances to its underground canal. Generally, plant material such as dry grass, sticks, petals, and other small deposits would be collected and accumulated around and or in the nest canal for camouflage. This camouflage of its nest is also known as a pseudo-nest[9] particularly to avoid predators and protection against bad weather. These colonies would often be small with some species being flexible with their site preference. European Pyobombus species have the tendency to be more stubborn in site preference, whereby their selection of nesting areas are limited.[10]

In the nest, there are cells. These cells are pollen lumps that are occupied by eggs and for the young. Pyrobombus bees have their eggs isolately laid each in a subcell laid vertically for the first cells in position which is the most common behavior amongst all bees except for the Alpinobombus. "The arrangement of eggs in the first cell arrangement for the Pyrobombus is generally two eggs at the center and three on each side, forming three rows."[9] Upon the population of the Pyrobombus bees developing and growing, the nests would inevitably need to expand in size. The construction of new cells would lay on top of the previous cells. This act would be also known as brooding. The following broods would have eggs laid horizontally or on top in position.[9]


Pyrobombus Pratorum pollinating

Pollination is important to preserve the ecosystem. It heavily relies on pollinators, like the Pyrobombus bees. The Pyrobombus collects pollen from a variety of flora by using its hind legs (scopa) and have pollen trapped between the body hairs. Through vibrating at high frequencies, pollen can be expelled from the bee's body to transport back to their colony and other plants for fertilization.[11] This is the act of Buzz Pollination in which most species of the Bombus behave that allows for flora to be distributed and fertilised.


Pyrobombus bees are commonly found in open environments such as meadows, grass fields, and forests.[12] At these locations, bees would face predators. Common predators would be bears, birds, badgers and hornets.

Not all bees are generalist forages. Bees vary in dietary and foraging needs that influence their population and flora growth.  

Ecology in TurkeyEdit

Pyrobombus IncertusEdit

Plants needed for the survival of the Incertus is abundant. The Incertus especially interacts with nearly all Labiatae with a few exceptions like T. serpyllum, S.namerosa, Nepeta nepetella and Glechomo hederacellm. Because of the abundance of food, they are strong in its population and can easily relocate to other areas to nest.[13]

Pyrobombus SulfureusEdit

The Sulfureus have specific dietary requirements and relies mainly on 2 plants; S. Pratense and A. Lineatus for their food source. Due to this limitation, they suffer a decline in their population due to scarcity and habitat loss. Palandoken and the Bolkar mountains are such locations where they can be found in Turkey.[13]

Pyrobombus SerrisquamaEdit

Like the Sulfureus, the Serrisquama have strict dietary requirements and interact with plants mainly belonging with the Compositae and Lepminosae. They are not considered endangered, however continued habitat regression will decrease the Serrisquama population.[13]

Ecology in Europe  Edit

High lands and open fields in the French Alps are locations bees would build nests.

Pyrobombus BrodmannicusEdit

The Brodmannicus are found in higher altitudes like the French Alps. Although the Brodmannicus forages on a variety of plants, the Brodmannicus bees in Caucasia specialises in the Boraginaceae in which the numbers are low.[5]

Distribution  Edit

Pyrobombus bees are commonly widespread in the Northern Hemisphere and covers close to 50% of North American fauna.[3] Most Pyrobombus bee species are experiencing habitat loss, with a few endangered in certain geographical locations.

Distribution in TurkeyEdit

15 different species of the Pyrobombus are recorded in Turkey.[13] The Incertus has the largest population and the most widespread species in Turkey with the Sulfureus and Serrisquama being smallest in numbers. The Sulfureus are considered rare in Turkey as they are threatened to extinction. The Sulfureus and Serrisquama are more populated in upper north east of Turkey and very few in the south west region.[13]

The following species are of the Pyrobombus subgenera found in Turkey.  











Lapidarius caucasicus  





Distribution in EuropeEdit

There are 79 West-Palaearctic bumblebee species recognized.[5] In these identified species, 11 species of the Pyrobombus are found. These species are mainly not considered endangered except for the few Pyrobombus Brodmannicus, Mocsaryi and Armeniacus due to the restriction of nesting locations, foraging and dietary needs. They are listed in the IUCN Red List of European Bees.[5]

Most of these species face a moderate regression in lost habitat area between 20% to 80%.[5]

The following species are of the Pyrobombus subgenera found in the West-Palaearctic region.  












Species listEdit

The subgenus contains the following species:[1]


  1. ^ a b c Paul H. Williams. "Pyrobombus annotated checklist". Bombus: bumblebees of the world. Natural History Museum. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Molecular phylogeny of the bumble bee subgenus Pyrobombus with insights into gene utility for lower-level analysis". Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Koulianos, Stella (1991). "Phylogenetic Relationships of the Bumblebee Subgenus Pyrobombus (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Inferred from Mitochondrial Cytochrome B and Cytochrome Oxidase I Sequences". Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 92: 355–358 – via Oxford Academic.
  4. ^ Aggie, Mika (2017). "Study: Bumblebee Species Declining Worldwide". The Scientist.
  5. ^ a b c d e Pierre Rasmont, Markus Franzén, Thomas Lecocq, Alexander Harpke, Stuart P.M. Roberts, Jacobus C. Biesmeijer, Leopoldo Castro, Björn Cederberg, Libor Dvořák, Úna Fitzpatrick, Yves Gonseth, Eric Haubruge, Gilles Mahé, Aulo Manino, Denis Michez, Johann Neumayer, Frode Ødegaard, Juho Paukkunen, Tadeusz Pawlikowski, Simon G. Potts, Menno Reemer, Josef Settele, Jakub Straka & Oliver Schweiger (2015). Climatic Risk and Distribution Atlas of European Bumblebees. Bulgaria: Pensoft. pp. 0–246. ISBN 978-954-642-768-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Owen, Robin (2016). "Rearing Bumble Bees for Research and Profit: Practical and Ethical Considerations". IntechOpen.
  7. ^ a b c Williams, Paul (2006). "Molecular phylogeny of the bumble bee subgenus Pyrobombus (Hymenoptera: Apidae Bombus ) with insights into gene utility for lower-level analysis". Invertebrate Systematics. 20: 289–303 – via Research Gate.
  8. ^ R. C. Plowright and Robin E. Owen (1980). "The Evolutionary Significance of Bumble Bee Color Patterns: A Mimetic Interpretation". Evolution. 34: 622–637 – via JSTOR.
  9. ^ a b c Sakagami, Shoichi (1976). "Specific Differences in the Bionomic Characters of Bumblebees. A Comparative Review" (PDF). Zoology. 20: 390–447 – via Hokkaido University. line feed character in |title= at position 48 (help)
  10. ^ T. I. Szabo, D. H. Pengelly (1973 ). "The over-wintering and emergence of Bombus (Pyrobombus) impatiens (Cresson) (Hymenoptera: Apidæ) in southern Ontario". Insectes Sociaux. 20: 125–132 – via Research Gate. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Mario, Marin (2019). "Buzz pollination: studying bee vibrations on flowers". New Phytologist. 224: 995–1404 – via New Phytologist Trust.
  12. ^ Williams, Paul (2000). "Bombus". Natural History Museum.
  13. ^ a b c d e Hikmet, Özbek (1998). "On the bumblebee fauna of Turkey: II. The genus Pyrobombus (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombinae)". Zoology in the Middle East. 16: 89–106 – via Taylor & Francis.