When It Comes to Bumblebees, Does Size Matter?


While honeybee workers are all the same size, that’s not true for bumblebees. 

While honeybee workers are all the same size, that’s not true for bumblebees. Scientists aren’t sure what’s behind the wide variety in bumble body sizes, but a new UC Riverside project aims to find out.

Certain crops, like greenhouse tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and blueberries, rely on bumblebees for a style of pollination that only bumblebees can perform. Among growers, the preference can be for bigger-bodied bumblebees because they’re thought to be more efficient pollinators.

Enabled by a $750,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the research team will investigate factors suspected of influencing bumblebee biology and body size, including climate change, wildfires, and the presence of nearby honeybee colonies.

In many cases, individual animals are born smaller when their habitat has less nutrition available. The researchers want to know if this is also true for bees. “One idea is that honeybees are taking more food resources, resulting in smaller bumbles. This is part of what we will be testing,” said UCR entomologist and project lead Hollis Woodard.

Read more at University of California - Riverside

Photo Credit: Skitterphoto via Pixabay