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B. vosnesenskii vs. B. caliginosus

I do not understand why some Pyrobombus images are identified as B. vosnesenskii while others are warned that they may be B. caliginosus.

The B. vosnesenskii Images don't all show whether there are any yellow abdominal hairs which differentiates B. caliginosus.

You do not even have a Taxon page for B. caliginosus.

Shouldn't all of those images under B. vosnesenskii that do not show detailed abdominal hairs be under Pyrobombus?

I just went through the seven
I just went through the seven pages currently ID'd as vosnesenskii. The majority are clearly vosnesenskii by range (inland CA, Orange County/San Diego, inland OR, inland WA, points further east). A smaller group are unclear, which I've divided into three groups below. A lot of the difficult ones are in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Placed or moved as vosnesenskii, within possible range of caliginosus: - coastal WA - SF - Santa Clara is too inland, I assume - coastal CA - literally on the coast, Puget Sound - coastal but says live oak/chaparral habitat, John Ascher said others from this site were vosnesenskii - slightly inland of Puget Sound - Port Townsend, WA (coastal) - Point Reyes - eastern side of SF Bay - Seattle - Seattle - Seattle - Seattle - Seattle - Seattle - slightly south of Portland, OR - Seattle

ID confirmed by John Ascher, within possible range of caliginosus: - John Ascher identified, San Jose too dry? - John Ascher id'd, Portland though? - John Ascher id'd, Oakland is dry - John Ascher id'd, coastal but says live oak/chaparral habitat - John Ascher id'd, coastal but says live oak/chaparral habitat - John Ascher said probably vos - John Ascher ID'd, San Jose - on the coast, John Ascher ID'd (I've been to this site, it's on the water and full of shorebirds) - John Ascher said "probably vos" - looked at hair length for ID - John Ascher id'd, coastal but says live oak/chaparral habitat - John Ascher agreed with ID, Mountain View - John Ascher agreed with ID, Sunnyvale - John Ascher Id'd, Sunnyvale

ID uncertain (potentially californicus or vandykei): - can't even rule out vandykei, Golden Gate Park which is coastal - moved to disambiguation page as John Ascher said vos or caliginosus - unclear if californicus or vosnesenskii, Berkeley CA - coastal CA, John Ascher can't rule out caliginosus - Seattle, could even be californicus

So the question is, what now? I assume the forward-looking plan is:
(1) Submissions clearly within the range of vosnesenskii and not caliginosus should go to vosnesenskii
(2) Submissions in the overlapping range should go to the "vosnesenskii or caliginosus" page unless they have ventral photos of the abdomen showing a hair color
(3) Someone should periodically go through the vosnesenskii page to check for user submissions

This is confusing and amusing to me as a former Seattleite - my entomology professor told us they were all vosnesenskii, but the distribution maps in "Bumble Bees of the Western United States" use collection data, which one hopes would be accurate (hah! if only!), and show lots of caliginosus around Puget Sound. Gah.

Thanks for checking these
And moving the uncertain ones to the either/or page

No problem - thanks for all y
No problem - thanks for all your hard work on Bombus, and for the help with these guys! Much appreciated.

Any difference in habits?
Last summer I saw a bee apparently attempting to pollinate a gymnosperm:

I would have said "go home bee, you're drunk" except the previous year I saw a similar bee also resting on a conifer:

Even if the plant is just a soft place to rest, is it possible only Bombus vosnesenskii likes conifers?

Weird... who knows. Tricksy
Weird... who knows. Tricksy critters!

OK, I've moved all the images
OK, I've moved all the images in categories 1 and 3 to either the either/or (caliginosus or vosnesenskii) page or to an appropriate page (for images in category 3), and only the image from Baylands (the coastal site) from the ones John has identified; in all cases, I included the following explanation:

"The nearly identical Bombus caliginosus also appears in this area, and can rarely be told apart by photographs; as a result, I've moved the image to this either/or species page. For info on this topic, look here or here and note that B. caliginosus has yellow hairs on sternite 4, shown in this specimen but very difficult to tell in live images:

Sorry to bump you back to subgenus!"

Yay organizing, I guess!

Thank you
for sorting it all out!

Differentiation by behavior?
Might gregariousness distinguish the species? After getting the "probably this but possibly that" ID for (San Francisco), which I'd submitted because so many individuals were found together, I looked at other California images. The notable feature of (Siskiyou County) and (Alameda County), the reason for posting, was also the number of bees in one place.

that won't work

my two cents
In many places in California, especially inland and to the south, B. caliginosus can be eliminated from consideration based on range as it has never been recorded there and should not occur (wrong habitat, climate, etc). Please consult Thorp et al. for details about their ranges.

To the north, especially at the coast, both species could occur and ID is very difficult at best from images alone. I often find them difficult to separate even with specimens.

Bumble bees are often difficult to det. from images because the species mimic each other!

Moved a couple to subgenus
It looks like a few should be at subgenus level, since it is impossible to separate the two species, so I moved them back. Thanks.

it is possible to separate the species
in the many places where only B. vosnesenskii is known (see distributions for each species in Thorp et al.)

John, please, I want your opinion on this: would it help to create a no taxon page caliginosus or vosnesenskii for all these images? Then, at least they would be together instead of lumped with all the others in the subgenus.
We have done this many times in cases of confusing species. See:
Physoconops or Physocephala

that seems like a good idea
this approach might also be useful for other look-alike bee species pairs Ceratina calcarata/dupla

Thanks, I followed your previous comments and moved to subgenus the ones from where boths species coexist. At least I hope that I did it right.

Glad you brought it up
I have been concerned about some IDs accompanied by "likely", "probably" or similar wording and I discussed it in previous forums. Sometimes people are too eager to place things at species level that should be at a higher level. I moved # 5 in Lynette's listing up to subgenus. Probably others should also be moved. I'll try to look more thoroughly into this when I am back from my trip (June 24).
BTW, John Ascher's IDs are very reliable; we may have to ask him for help on this.

expert-to-editor translations
I'm never sure how cautious to be when the experts use the word "likely," whether it should be interpreted by the layperson as a solid ID ("he knows a lot more than I do and if he says it's likely, that means it is") or an explicit non-ID ("if he were sure what it is he'd say so, and since he didn't say so, that doesn't mean it is.")

I just got chastised by one expert for appearing to doubt ID that he'd made with a "likely" comment - I moved it to genus but not species and said that I wasn't sure what degree of certainty "likely" indicated. I meant to ask for expert-to-editor translation at the time but it was right before vacation and I had an awful lot on my mind...

if the ID were solid
then no qualifier would be required

Some experts
put their ID in the title, and then place other "maybe" and "likely" in the comment, but want the image placed at the location specified by the title, but as I said "some experts". Some of it is learning the particular expert. Also certain areas may always have some uncertainty so you either go with a maybe or a likely or nothing would ever get done.

Next time I wouldn't think you would get in trouble moving to a safe location unless you explain why!

Clear comments
Many times I wish that experts would add the words: "Can be moved to . . .". I find it very difficult to interpret the words "likely", "maybe", "it looks like", "perhaps", "probably", etc. I only feel comfortable moving them to the higher level in most cases. This problem is confounded by the many comments by so, so experts or no experts at all; these should be accompanied by the words: "I am no expert" or "wait for an expert". It is not a problem for those of us who know who is who, but beginners don't know that.
I am always very uneasy about many of the rather loose IDs that we have in the guide. This is supposed to be a guide and to provide reliable information to viewers.

let's say an expert examination of specimens collected in the field finds 90% of one species (ZZZ) and the remaining 10% are several other species. They all look the same in photos (say all black ) and require close examination to determine species. Now if our experts say "likely/probably species ZZZ" and we move all of the images to ZZZ because there is a 90% chance it is correct, won't our guide show 100% of the insects are ZZZ and 0% the other species? The other choice is to leave everything at genus level or to make more no taxon pages for species groups and look-alikes (either of which is more correct).

Then the mess starts when someone lives in a range with only one species, or they actually get an expert examination or DNA is checked, now they want to place on the real species page and not the group page. And once you make that species page for the one specimen everyone starts to upload there (I can find examples) :-)

Good hypothesis...
...but things work differently in the real world. Lack of certainty in a photographic ID most often results from the angle of the photo not showing a particular diagnostic character, distortion of color in the photograph, insufficient detail of surface sculpture, etc. Subsequent photographs are not necessarily doomed to the same fate because one was.

If the site gets a reputation for not accepting experts opinions unless they can guarantee 100% certainty, it will eventually lose the services of those experts.

I am in favor of accepting the experts IDs, but think that maybe some info pages would benefit from explanations or disclaimers listing what other species "may occasionally be included due to superficial similarity". That would allow us to get things sorted as much as possible, but also be more informative with the extra disclosure on the guide pages.
I'm not sure which works best, a No Taxon "species group"/look-alike page for the 50-50 species, and maybe a species page for the "90%-ers" with a disclaimer listing the others?
Maybe things are fine as they are, I was just trying to suggest things that might help?

How about a no-taxon page entitled
"Resembles Bombus vosnesenskii (but could be B. caliginosus)"

or something to that effect?

In general, I would prefer creating a no taxon page when in doubt, such as my "Halictus ligatus sensu lato" page, rather than guessing.

90% isn't good enough for a species ID.

Yes, yes, yes!
90% isn't good enough for a species ID.
This is what I keep saying. There are too many images moved to species pages with only a 90% or less certitude and that is not good. No taxon pages with "species X or Y" or "species X sensu lato" is a better way to deal with this.

Already Done
caliginosus or vosnesenskii

Beatriz added back in October.

Expert IDs
If somebody generally acknowledged as an expert provides an ID, then by and large it is safe to move the image to the level of the ID unless the expert explicitly states otherwise. My own use of such qualifiers is meant to acknowledge that, while everything visible in the photo and the information provided along with it agrees with the ID given, there are other (usually much less likely) possibilities that can't be ruled out without examination of the specimen. It's not often that I suggest an ID but instruct that the image be left where it is, and those are the instances where I think an explicit statement about where the photo should be placed is necessary. I suspect most experts here use the same approach.

It isn't the "experts" whose IDs we should be second guessing. However, deciding who are the experts is the key, and unfortunately that will always be a continual process of subjective assessment by the editors.

Thanks for your time & input :)

John reviewed my Foursome with the comment:
"Yes, these are probably B. vosnesenskii
But they could be the extremely similar but less likely B. caliginosus"
which is what started me asking where you want the PROBABLY-but-POSSIBLY placed.

I'd love to have his comment on this topic.

Also, #3 has comments by John about the possibility of being B. caliginosus. Maybe it should be moved up too.

Fremont is a place where B. vos. should be abundant
but being on the SF Bay the possibility of caliginosus should at least be considered. I would have to check the ranges in Thorp et al. to see if caliginosus is even possible there.

Here are some ways to separate them:
1. caliginosus not found in Orange Co. Comments seen here:

2. Bombus vosnesenskii is found along the west coast from southern British Columbia to northern Baja California. It is very common in much of its range. Comments seen here:

3. Both of these Pyrobombus occur in coastal central and northern coastal California. Comments seen here:

4. B. vosnesenskii, B. caliginosus and B. californicus all have yellow hairs at the front and back of their bodies and a large black patch in the center. B. vosnesenskii is the most common and has short hairs that looked cropped and yellow hairs on the face. B. californicus is the only one of the three with black hairs on the face. B. caliginosus is shaggier than B. vosnesenskii and has yellowhairs on the underside of the abdomen where B. vosnesenskii has only black hairs on the underside of the abdomen". Comments seen here:

5. It looks like we do have both caliginosus or vosnesenskii in WA. See comments here:

6. B. caliginosus is VERY similar ... the "crew cut" appearance of the metasomal hairs suggests vosnesenskii

I hope putting all those comments in one place will help. I think the caliginosus must be rarer than vosnesenskii, but that's not to say some may not be placed incorrectly.

Lynette, Great post for further discussions!

Are we 100% sure that B. caliginosus isn't now in Orange County as in #1? I've found 3 exotic insects to SF Bay Area in the mere year I've been looking (confirmed by experts.) This one sure looks like it has a crew cut:

Why is #3 under B. vosnesenskii? If B. caliginosus IS found in Half Moon Bay, then how can one tell?

Has an expert reviewed all the B. vosnesenskii images for location and "crew cut"?

Where should image go if PROBABLY B. vosnesenskii but POSSIBLY B. caliginosus?

#3 seems to entirely lack yellow hairs on S4
I.e. the underside of the metasoma beneath the yellow tergal band. Therefore it should be vosnesenskii (but I don't claim to be certain)

We can be sure that caliginosus will not invade Orange County. Bumble bee distribution in California is rather well known (with some exceptions of course), and native species do not suddenly change preferred climates and habitats.

My opinion
In my opinion, things should be placed at the "lowest level of certainty", in this case genus, to avoid potential errors. We discussed this before a couple of times. I wish I could find those forums.
Frankly, I am afraid that there are lots of examples like this one. Some people can't resist the temptation to place something at species level even if there is no certainty about it.

lowest level of certainty is caliginosus or vosnesenskii
both of which are in subgenus Pyrobombus (see previous discussion re Bombus subgenera).

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