Skip to main content

Data from: Phenological, but not social, variation associated with climate differences in a eusocial sweat bee, Halictus ligatus, nesting in southern Ontario

Cite this dataset

Richards, Miriam H.; Onuferko, Tom M.; Rehan, Sandra M. (2015). Data from: Phenological, but not social, variation associated with climate differences in a eusocial sweat bee, Halictus ligatus, nesting in southern Ontario [Dataset]. Dryad.


Studies of annual and geographic variation in eusocial bee populations suggest that more stringent environmental conditions result in stronger reproductive skew favouring queens, while moderate conditions favour increasing worker reproduction. To test these predictions, we compared the phenology and colony development of H. ligatus nesting in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada to a previously studied aggregation 90 km north of St. Catharines, in Victoria, Ontario. Despite the close proximity of these two locations, St. Catharines has markedly shorter winters and longer summers. Comparisons between St. Catharines in 2006 and Victoria in the 1980s and 1990s incorporate both geographic differences in climate and temporal differences due to climate change. We predicted that St. Catharines foundress queens should emerge from hibernation and initiate nests earlier in spring, giving them time to produce more workers. Since earlier studies indicated that queens have difficulty suppressing worker reproduction in larger colonies, we also predicted higher rates of worker ovarian development in St. Catharines. In spring and summer 2006, we excavated 65 H. ligatus nests, comparing their contents to 713 specimens collected in pan traps. As predicted, nests were initiated about a month earlier in St. Catharines than in Victoria, but contrary to prediction, fewer workers were produced in St. Catharines. St. Catharines workers were just as likely to have developed ovaries as Victoria workers. About 40% of St. Catharines workers were classified as reproductive, and larger reproductive workers tended to have higher ovarian scores. Early queen mortality in the longer nest cycle of St. Catharines bees may have enhanced opportunities for worker reproduction despite their smaller numbers. Novel features of H. ligatus sociobiology in St. Catharines included evidence that queens can initiate new nests following the loss of their first brood, overlap between worker and gyne production within some nests, and high rates of independent nest founding by worker-sized females, suggesting that many worker-brood females overwinter. Overall, the distinctly warmer climate of St. Catharines compared to Victoria led to earlier nest initiation and lengthening of the flight season, but not to the predicted differences in colony social organisation or queen-worker reproductive skew. A second objective of our study was to assess how well pan trap collections capture important information about demographic and social parameters important in assessing social variability in sweat bees. Nest excavations and pan traps produced similar results, suggesting that pan traps are a good alternative when nest excavations are impossible.

Usage notes


St. Catharines
Niagara Region