Does the diapause experience of bumblebee queens Bombus terrestris affect colony characteristics?

  • Beekman M
  • Van Stratum P
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Abstract

1. Bumblebee colonies show much variation in the number of workers, drones, and queens produced. Because this variation prevails even when colonies are kept under identical conditions, it does not seem to be caused by extrinsic factors but rather by differences between founding queens.2. The most likely factor that could cause differences between queens is diapause. Although colonies are raised under standardised conditions, the queens often experience diapause of different length. If there are costs associated with diapause that influence post-diapause reproduction, the diapause history of the queens could affect colony characteristics.3. Here, several colony characteristics are compared: number of first and second brood workers; total number of workers, drones, and queens; energy spent on sexuals; sex ratio; rate of worker production; time to emergence of first reproductive; and colony lifetime. Colonies were used where the queens experienced a diapause treatment of 0 (nondiapause queens), 2, and 4 months.4. Although no proof was found for the existence of costs associated with diapause, the colony characteristics of nondiapause queens were significantly different from those of diapause queens. Colonies of nondiapause queens produced the lowest number of workers but the highest number of young queens.5. It is argued that these nondiapause colonies are more time-constrained than diapause colonies because nondiapause colonies produce two generations within the same season and should therefore be more efficient in producing sexual offspring.6. Moreover, nondiapause colonies should rear a more female-biased sex ratio because they can be certain of the presence of males produced by other (diapause) colonies

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bombus terrestris
  • Bumblebees
  • Colony characteristics
  • Costs of diapause
  • Diapause
  • Nondiapause
  • Trade-off

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