Small worker bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) are hardier against starvation than their larger sisters

M. J. Couvillon, A. Dornhaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

In bumble bees (Bombus spp.), where workers within the same colony exhibit up to a tenfold difference in mass, labor is divided by body size. Current adaptive explanations for this important life history feature are unsatisfactory. Within the colony, what is the function of the smaller workers? Here, we report on the differential robustness to starvation of small and large worker bumble bees (Bombus impatiens); when nectar is scarce, small workers remain alive significantly longer than larger workers. The presence of small workers, and size variation in general, might act as insurance against times of nectar shortage. These data may provide a novel, adaptive explanation, independent of division of labor, for size polymorphism within the worker caste.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-197
Number of pages5
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Volume57
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2010

Keywords

  • Bombus impatiens
  • Bumble bees
  • Polymorphism
  • Robustness
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science

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