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Short-term exposure to heatwave-like temperatures affects learning and memory in bumblebees

Citation

Gérard, Maxence (2022), Short-term exposure to heatwave-like temperatures affects learning and memory in bumblebees, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.w3r2280t0

Abstract

Global warming has been identified as a key driver of bee declines around the world. While it is clear that elevated temperatures during the spring and summer months – the principal activity period of many bee species – is a factor in this decline, exactly how temperature affects bee survival is unknown. In vertebrates, there is clear evidence that elevated ambient temperatures impair cognition but whether and how heat affects the cognitive abilities of invertebrates remains unclear. Cognitive skills in bees are essential for their survival as, to supply the hive with nutrition, workers must be able to learn and remember the location of the most rewarding floral resources. Here, we investigate whether temperature-related cognitive impairments could be a driver of bee declines by exploring the effect of short-term increases in ambient temperature on learning and memory. We found that, in comparison to bees that were tested at 25°C (a temperature that they would typically experience in summer), bees that were exposed to 32°C (a temperature that they will becoming increasingly exposed to during heatwave events) were significantly worse at forming an association between a coloured light and a sucrose reward and that their capacity to remember this association after just 1 hour was abolished. This study provides novel experimental evidence that even just a few hours of exposure to heatwave-like temperatures can severely impair the cognitive performance of insects. Such temperature-induced cognitive deficits could play an important role in explaining recent and future bee population declines.