Bumblebees of the subgenus Bombus s. str. dominate (or used to dominate) many north temperate pollinator assemblages and include most of the commercial bumblebee pollinator species. Several species are now in serious decline, so conservationists need to know precisely which ones are involved. The problem is that many Bombus s. str. species are cryptic, so that species identification from morphology may be impossible for some individuals and is frequently misleading according to recent molecular studies. This is the first review of the entire subgenus to: (1) avoid fixed a priori assumptions concerning the limits of the problematic species; and (2) sample multiple sites from across the entire geographic ranges of all of the principal named taxa worldwide; and (3) fit an explicit model for how characters change within an evolutionary framework; and (4) apply explicit and consistent criteria within this evolutionary framework for recognising species. We analyse easily-obtained DNA (COI-barcode) data for 559 sequences from 279 localities in 33 countries using general mixed Yule-coalescent (GMYC) models, assuming only the morphologically distinctive species B. affinis Cresson, B. franklini (Frison), B. ignitus Smith and B. tunicatus Smith, and then recognise other comparable COI-barcode groups as putative species. These species correspond to modified concepts of the taxa B. cryptarum (Fabricius), B. hypocrita PÃ©rez, B. jacobsoni Skorikov, B. lantschouensis Vogt n. stat., B. longipennis Friese, B. lucorum (Linnaeus), B. magnus Vogt, B. minshanensis Bischoff n. stat., B. occidentalis Greene, B. patagiatus Nylander, B. sporadicus Nylander, B. terrestris (Linnaeus) and B. terricola Kirby (a total of 17 species). Seven lectotypes are designated. Our results allow us for the first time to diagnose all of the putative species throughout their global ranges and to map the extent of these geographic ranges. Â© 2012 The Natural History Museum.