Harmonic radar tracking reveals random dispersal pattern of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) queens after hibernation

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Makinson, J. C., Woodgate, J. L., Reynolds, A. M., Capaldi, E. A., Perry, C. J. and Chittka, L. 2019. Harmonic radar tracking reveals random dispersal pattern of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) queens after hibernation. Scientific Reports. 9 (4651).

AuthorsMakinson, J. C., Woodgate, J. L., Reynolds, A. M., Capaldi, E. A., Perry, C. J. and Chittka, L.
Abstract

The dispersal of animals from their birth place has profound effects on the immediate survival and longer-term persistence of populations. Molecular studies have estimated that bumblebee colonies can be established many kilometers from their queens’ natal nest site. However, little is known about when and how queens disperse during their lifespan. One possible life stage when dispersal may occur, is directly after emerging from hibernation, but little is known of queens’ behavior during this period. Here, harmonic radar tracking of artificially over-wintered Bombus terrestris queens shows that they spend most of their time resting on the ground with intermittent very short flights (duration and distance). We corroborate these behaviors with observations of wild queen bees, which show similar prolonged resting periods between short flights, indicating that the behavior of our radar-monitored bees was not due to the attachment of transponders nor an artifact of the bees being commercially reared. Radar-monitored flights were not continuously directed away from the origin, suggesting that they were not intentionally trying to disperse from their artificial emergence site. Flights did not loop back to the origin suggesting bees were not trying to remember or get back to the original release site. Most individuals dispersed from the range of the harmonic radar within less than two days and did not return. Flight directions were not different from a uniform distribution and flight lengths followed an exponential distribution, both suggesting random dispersal. A random walk model based on our observed data estimates a positive net dispersal from the origin over many flights, indicating a biased random dispersal, and estimates the net displacement of queens to be within the range of those estimated in genetic studies. We suggest that a distinct post-hibernation life history stage consisting mostly of rest with intermittent short flights and infrequent foraging fulfils the dual purpose of ovary development and dispersal prior to nest searching.

KeywordsBumblebees; Queens; Dispersal; Harmonic radar tracking
Year of Publication2019
JournalScientific Reports
Journal citation9 (4651)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1038/s41598-019-40355-6
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeSpace use by bees - radar tracking of spatial movements for key pollinators
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Publisher's version
Copyright license
CC BY
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online20 Mar 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted12 Feb 2019
PublisherNature Publishing Group
ISSN2045-2322

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