New! Sign up for our free email newsletter.
Science News
from research organizations

Large bumblebees start work earlier

Date:
May 5, 2021
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
Larger bumblebees are more likely to go out foraging in the low light of dawn, new research shows.
Share:
FULL STORY

Larger bumblebees are more likely to go out foraging in the low light of dawn, new research shows. University of Exeter scientists used RFID -- similar technology to contactless card payments -- to monitor when bumblebees of different sizes left and returned to their nest.

The biggest bees, and some of the most experienced foragers (measured by number of trips out), were the most likely to leave in low light.

Bumblebee vision is poor in low light, so flying at dawn or dusk raises the risk of getting lost or being eaten by a predator.

However, the bees benefit from extra foraging time and fewer competitors for pollen in the early morning.

"Larger bumblebees have bigger eyes than their smaller-sized nest mates and many other bees, and can therefore see better in dim light," said lead author Katie Hall, of the University of Exeter.

"We might expect all bumblebee foragers to leave the colony to forage as soon as there is enough light to allow them to fly.

"In fact, colonies seem to regulate the start of foraging.

"There is a balance of risks and rewards in low light -- and most bees wait for higher light levels when they can see better and fly faster, with less risk from predators or getting lost and running out of energy.

"Our finding that more experienced bees are more likely to fly in lower light suggests that knowledge of food locations helps them navigate safely."

The study tracked the bees' behaviour over five days during warm periods of the flowering season.

Only a small proportion of foragers left the colony at dawn when light levels were below 10 lux.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Katie Hall, Théo Robert, Kevin J. Gaston, Natalie Hempel de Ibarra. Onset of morning activity in bumblebee foragers under natural low light conditions. Ecology and Evolution, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/ece3.7506

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Large bumblebees start work earlier." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210505102043.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2021, May 5). Large bumblebees start work earlier. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210505102043.htm
University of Exeter. "Large bumblebees start work earlier." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210505102043.htm (accessed July 22, 2024).

Explore More

from ScienceDaily

RELATED STORIES