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Data for impact of “non-lethal” tarsal clipping on bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) may depend on queen stage and worker size


Mola, John et al. (2021), Data for impact of “non-lethal” tarsal clipping on bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) may depend on queen stage and worker size, Dryad, Dataset,


Recent bumble bee declines have prompted the development of novel population monitoring tools, including the use of putatively non-lethal tarsal clipping to obtain genetic material. However, the potential side effects of tarsal clipping have only been tested in the worker caste of a single domesticated species, prompting the need to more broadly test whether tarsal clipping negatively affects sampled individuals. To determine if tarsal clipping reduces queen survivorship and colony establishment, we collected wild queens of Bombus vosnesenskii and clipped tarsi from a single leg of half the individuals. We reared captive queens and estimated survivorship and nest establishment success. We also clipped tarsi of workers from a subset of colonies across a range of body sizes. We found no consistent negative effect of clipping on queen survival. In the first year, clipped nest-searching queens suffered heavy mortality, but there was no effect on foraging queens. The following year, we found no effect of clipping on queen survival or establishment. Clipping did not reduce overall worker survival but reduced survivorship for those in the smallest size quartile.

Implications for insect conservation:

Our findings suggest tarsal clipping does not have consistent negative effects on individual survival. However, our results varied with queen behavioral state, year, and worker size, suggesting differences within and among species and interactions with landscape stressors warrant further study. In the interim, we recommend researchers and conservationists minimize the use of tarsal clipping for sensitive species, populations, or small workers except in cases of exceptional scientific need.