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Bumble bee (B. vosnesenskii) queen nest searching occurs independent of ovary developmental status

Cite this dataset

Sarro, Erica; Tripodi, Amber; Woodard, S Hollis (2022). Bumble bee (B. vosnesenskii) queen nest searching occurs independent of ovary developmental status [Dataset]. Dryad.


Studies on the physiological states of wild-caught organisms are essential to uncovering the links between ecological and physiological processes. Bumble bee queens emerge from overwintering in the spring. At this time, queens develop their ovaries and search for a nest site in which to start a colony. Whether these two processes, ovary development and nest-searching, interact with or influence one another remains an unresolved question in behavioral physiology. We explored the hypothesis that ovary development and nest-searching might be mechanistically connected, by testing whether (1) ovary development precedes nest-searching behavior; (2) nest occupation precedes ovary development; or (3) ovary development and nest-searching occur independently, in bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) queens. 

We collected queens either nest-searching (and thus prior to occupying a nest) or pollen-collecting (and thus provisioning an occupied nest) and measured their degree of ovary activation. We further screened these queens for parasites or other symbionts, to identify additional factors that may impact their reproductive success at this time. We found that queens searched for and occupied nests at all stages of ovary development, indicating that these processes occur independently in this system. Nest-searching queens were more likely to have substantial mite loads than pollen-collecting queens, who had already located and occupied a nest. However, mite loads did not significantly predict ovary developmental status. Collectively, our work shows that nesting status and symbionts alone are insufficient to explain the variation in spring bumble bee queen ovary development. We propose that ovary development and nest-searching occur opportunistically, which may enable queens to begin laying eggs earlier in the season than if these processes occurred in discrete succession.


data collection described in manuscript


National Science Foundation, Award: 1631776

United States Department of Agriculture, Award: CA-R-ENT-5122-H