State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Bombus bohemicus Seidl, 1837

  • Apis nemorum Fabricius, 1775
  • Apathus ashtoni Cresson, 1864
  • Psithyrus hedini Bischoff, 1936
Vernacular Name
Gipsy Cuckoo-bee, Gypsy cuckoo bee
Conservation status
No status defined
Value of species
Pollinator species
One of 26 world known species of the subgenus Psithyrus (previously considered as a separate genus). One of 250 world known species of the genus Bombus, and one of 40 bumblebee species (8 cuckoo bee species among them) in the fauna of Ukraine. All species of the subgenus Psithyrus are obligate social parasites ('cuckoos') in colonies of the other social Bombus species. Females lack pollen-collecting corbiculae on the hind legs, there is no worker caste. DISTRIBUTION: Palaearctic, Japanese, Oriental, W Nearctic, E Nearctic Regions, Arctic border. Europe and Asia, including the Himalaya, to the Pacific. Widespread and common, often with large families, and emerging in early spring. Breeds in colonies of Bombus lucorum. Bombus bohemicus is one of the most common cuckoo-bumblebees of Europe. It is widespread from the N. Spain, the S.Italy and the Balkan to the South to beyond the Arctic Circle to the North. It extends to Far East of Russia to the East. It inquilines mainly B. lucorum]]. Bombus ashtoni Cresson, 1864 from North America was previously considered to be a species separate from B. bohemicus, but Cameron et al. (2007) suggested it may be conspecific and this was supported by Williams et al. (2014). In North America, Bombus bohemicus is found in eastern and midwestern United States and Canada in Eastern Temperate Forest and Boreal Forest regions, south in a narrow band at higher elevations along the Appalachian Mountains and extending northwest through the Canadian Great Plains, Mountain West, and Tundra/Taiga to Alaska (Williams et al. 2014). In Europe, this species is widespread from the north of Spain, the south of Italy and the Balkans in the south to beyond the Arctic Circle in the north (Rasmont et al. 2014). It extends eastwards to the Far East of Asia (Williams 1991) and south into China in Sichuan (Williams et al. 2009), where it is uncommon. Bombus bohemicus is one of the most common cuckoo-bumblebees of Europe (Rasmont et al. 2014). This species is also widespread in many parts of China (Rasmont et al. 2014). In Europe, this species is common to abundant over most of its range, and populations seem to be stable (Rasmont et al. 2014), despite declining rapidly in North America (Williams et al. 2014). Bombus bohemicus is a cuckoo bee, a term used for a specialized lineage of bumble bees (subgenus Psithyrus) that has lost the ability to collect pollen and to rear their brood. As such, these bees do not found their own nests, but instead, usurp the colonies and worker forces of other bumble bee species. To do this, a mated female enters the nest of another bumble bee species, kills or subdues the queen of that colony, and forcibly (using pheromones and/or physical attacks) "enslaves" the workers of that colony to feed her and her developing young. Since all of the resulting cuckoo bee offspring are reproductive (not workers), they leave the colony to mate, and then they hibernate. The next year, after emerging from hibernation, the mated females seek out other nests to attack. Males of this species patrol circuits in search of mates. Before finding and invading a host colony, females feed directly from flowers. The food plants of this species include Cirsium, Melilotus, Rubus, Rudbeckia, Solidago, Symphyotrichum, Trifolium and Vaccinium (Williams et al. 2014). This bee is a social parasite, and thus is found in association with its host species (Antonovics and Edwards 2011, Williams et al. 2014). Cuckoo bees often attack a broad range of host species, but some specialize in attacking the members of just one species or subgenus. In Europe, Bombus bohemicus is an inquiline primarily in the nests of B. lucorum (Rasmont et al. 2014). In North America, known hosts include Bombus affinis and B. terricola, and potentially B. occidentalis and B. cryptarum (Plath 1934, Owen et al. 2012, Williams et al. 2014). Habitat types are variable, and likely depend on host species. In Europe, like its primary host, B. bohemicus can be found in a wide variety of habitats, from open grasslands, to sand dunes, heather moorland, woodland edge and subalpine grasslands (Rasmont et al. 2014). In North America, this species' hosts nest in abandoned, underground, rodent burrows. Although overwintering specifics of this bee are unknown, most bumblebees overwinter in mulch, rotting logs, or loose soil (Plath 1934, Macfarlane 1974).
Book reference
  • Iren KONOVALOVA, e-mail:

Taxonomic branch