Eur. J. Entomol. 111 (2): 217-220, 2014 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2014.035

Longevity of starved bumblebee queens (Hymenoptera: Apidae) is shorter at high than low temperatures

Salla-Riikka VESTERLUND1, Jouni SORVARI1,2
1 Department of Biology, Section of Ecology, FI-20014 University of Turku, Finland; e-mail: salla.vesterlund@utu.fi
2 Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70211 Kuopio, Finland; e-mail: jouni.sorvari@uef.fi

Northern bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) with annual lifecycles depend both on energy stores remaining in their fat body after diapause and a few spring flowering plants. Most temperate bumblebees emerge gradually over several months after winter depending on the species and within species on the location of the overwintering chamber (hibernaculum). Weather can either delay or promote emergence and nectar resources are needed to fuel flight at low ambient temperatures to find a nest site. Several phoretic mites use queens for transportation and have synchronized life cycles with their host species. Their presence on the body of bumblebees is usually harmless but can become harmful when the number of mites increases to hundreds per individual bee. High numbers of mites on queens may also indicate the queens are in poor condition. The effect of temperature and mite load on the time for which queens can survive (d) during a 25-day period of starvation were determined using newly emerged spring queens of B. lucorum. Queens collected from various locations in SW Finland were divided into four groups taking into account their initial load of Parasitellus fucorum mites: (A) 15°C and provided with only water; (B) 24°C and provided with only water; (C) 15°C and provided with pollen and nectar; (D) 24°C and provided with pollen and nectar. There were mites on 65% (50 out of 77) of the queens. All of the fed queens survived and starved queens died, with those kept at 24°C dying approximately 8 days before those kept at 15°C. Queen weight or mite load had no effect on the length of the period for which they survived and there was no difference in the weights of the queens in the different mite load classes. Asynchrony between plants and insect as well as increased frost damage due to climate change may affect nectar availability in spring. Therefore, the survival and long term viability of bumblebee populations should be monitored during variable spring conditions.

Keywords: Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus lucorum, bumblebee, spring temperature, starvation, Parasitellus fucorum, mites

Received: October 4, 2013; Accepted: January 16, 2014; Prepublished online: April 4, 2014; Published: May 5, 2014

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