Bumblebee queens surprise by surviving underwater

Bumblebee queens surprise by surviving underwater

The survival of bumblebee queens underwater could be good news for important pollinators, which are under great pressure. The experiment suggests that bumblebees can withstand climate-induced flooding that threatens to overwinter in bumblebee hives.

The survival of bumblebees underwater is an encouraging sign in a worrying trend as bumblebee numbers decline around the world, Sabrina Rondeau tells Agence France-Presse.

She is the lead author of the study Uncovering submerged secrets: The ability of bumblebee queens to resist floods which was published in the journal Biology Letters.

I got on the water in the test jumps

The first sign that bumblebee queens could survive underwater came after an accident in the laboratory. Sabrina Rondo studied the effects of pesticides in the soil around bumblebee queens when several pipes containing bumblebees were flooded.

– I was very disappointed. Fortunately, a few queens ended up underwater. But I didn't want to lose them and paid attention to the jumps. “To my great surprise, the bumblebee queens survived,” says Sabrina Rondo.

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None of the people she spoke to in her long-term studies of bumblebees had any idea that bumblebees lived underwater.

Eight out of ten survived

Rudo began a new experiment to understand what was happening. Here, 143 queen bees were placed in a hibernating state in tubes. Some queens were not immersed in water as a reference group. Others were placed floating in the water, while other jumps were placed underwater for eight hours to seven days.

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According to the report, the queens were placed in new tubes with soil taken from the bumblebee hibernation area. Queens marked as dead were stored at room temperature before their dead status was confirmed.

Only 17 out of 21 (81%) queens that were underwater for seven days were able to survive. They were still alive eight weeks later. In the control group, 88%, or 15 out of 17 queens, survived.

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It may cause more survival

According to Rondeau, the long-term impact on bumblebee health and how a prolonged queen stay underwater affects the colony cannot be answered without more research.

The hops used in the trial are American varieties that have not seen the same decline in numbers as many other hop varieties.

We wonder if flood resistance is one of the reasons for their success. The study must be repeated on other species of bumblebees to find out how widespread this survival is. But it's encouraging to see that floods may not pose as big a threat as we thought so far, says Sabrina Rondo.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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