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Heatwave-like events affect drone production and brood-care behaviour in bumblebees

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posted on 2024-03-26, 10:43 authored by Yanet Sepúlveda, Beth NichollsBeth Nicholls, Wiebke SchuettWiebke Schuett, Dave GoulsonDave Goulson

Climate change is currently considered one of the major threats to biodiversity and is associated with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves. Heatwaves create acutely stressful conditions that may lead to disruption in the performance and survival of ecologically and economically important organisms, such as insect pollinators. In this study, we investigated the impact of simulated heatwaves on the performance of queenless microcolonies of Bombus terrestris audax under laboratory conditions. Our results indicate that heatwaves can have significant impacts on bumblebee performance. However, contrary to our expectations, exposure to heatwaves did not affect survival. Exposure to a mild 5-day heatwave (30–32 °C) resulted in increased offspring production compared to those exposed to an extreme heatwave (34–36 °C) and to the control group (24 °C). We also found that brood-care behaviours were impacted by the magnitude of the heatwave. Wing fanning occurred occasionally at temperatures of 30–32 °C, whereas at 34–36 °C the proportion of workers engaged in this thermoregulatory behaviour increased significantly. Our results provide insights into the effects of heatwaves on bumblebee colony performance and underscore the use of microcolonies as a valuable tool for studying the effects of extreme weather events. Future research, especially field-based studies replicating natural foraging conditions, is crucial to complement laboratory-based studies to comprehend how heatwaves compromise the performance of pollinators. Such studies may potentially help to identify those species more resilient to climate change, as well as those that are most vulnerable.

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Publication status

  • Published

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  • Published version

Journal

PeerJ

ISSN

2167-8359

Publisher

PeerJ

Volume

12

Article number

e17135

Institution

University of Sussex

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  • Yes

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  • Yes

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