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Monday, May 27, 2024

Climate change and bumblebees. Pollinators die in their own nests

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Bumblebee nests are heating up due to climate change. Scientists from Belgium and Canada analyzed the thermal preferences of species from around the world and found that many of them are suffering from rising temperatures. Too hot conditions in the nest have a serious impact on the development of larvae and the health of adult insects.

Bumblebees are one of the key pollinators that thrive in various climatic conditions and environments. The numbers of many species of these insects have been declining for some time. Scientists linked this decline to climate change, but they did not know the exact impact of global warming on bumblebee populations. The authors of the new study, published in the journal “Frontiers in Bee Science”, attempted to find the answer to this question.

“Death comes quickly”

Scientists focused on tracking the preferences of different species of bumblebees in terms of temperature in their nests. An analysis of scientific literature from the last 180 years has shown that the optimal temperature for most species of these insects is between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius, although some can survive at 36 degrees Celsius. During heat waves, the temperature inside the nests increases additionally, which hinders the development of healthy larvae. .

– Too high a temperature is more harmful to most animals and plants than a low temperature – explained Peter Kevan from the University of Guelph in Canada, the lead author of the paper. – When it's cold, the life processes of organisms that do not metabolically regulate their body temperature simply slow down. However, when the temperature becomes too high, the processes begin to break down. Death comes quickly.

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Researchers have found that although bumblebees have some behavioral adaptations to regulate their body temperature, these may not be enough to cope with climate change. Even if one individual copes better with the heat than another, if the entire nest becomes too hot to raise healthy larvae, the community is doomed to extinction.

Eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) – photo. illustrativeShutterstock

More research is needed

As the authors explained, the impact of high temperatures in the bumblebee nest on the development of larvae has not been a common subject of scientific analysis so far. However, similar studies on honey bees have shown that higher temperatures in the nest reduce the reproductive capacity of queen bees and also lead to a reduction in the number of workers. If heat has a similar effect on bumblebees, global warming could lead to their slow extinction.

To ensure bumblebees continue to thrive, scientists have called for more research into what they say is understudied: nest morphology, nest temperature and thermoregulation. It is possible that some bumblebee colonies adjust their nesting choice, form, or behavior to cool their nests.

“We hope that other scientists will use the hypotheses we presented in their own research on bumblebee health,” Kevan concluded.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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