Species-specific differences in bumblebee worker body size between different elevations: Implications for pollinator community structure under climate change





Bombus, body size, climate change, elevation gradient, functional traits, rising temperatures


Pollinator populations face growing threats from global climate change, particularly in alpine environments with rapidly rising temperatures. Understanding how bumblebees, critical alpine pollinators, respond to these temperature changes is therefore an important goal. Predicting species’ responses to climate change requires several different approaches, one of which is to compare processes at different elevations, which experience different temperature regimes. Bumblebee body size is linked to fitness through its influence on nutritional requirements and foraging capacity. It is also a highly plastic trait that depends on ecological factors such as temperature. Thus, understanding how body size varies at different elevations may help predict bumblebee fitness under climate change. We collected bumblebee workers from five species in a single growing season, at two distinct elevations in the Swiss Alps. Our study aimed to examine whether body size responses differed among species and across functional traits related to foraging and nesting. Larger body size is thought to confer an advantage under cold conditions; we therefore expected greater body size with elevation, but with species-specific relationships. Contrary to our expectation, not all species were larger at high elevations. Specifically, while two species were significantly larger at high elevation, one (Bombus terrestris) was significantly smaller at high elevation, and two showed no size differences with elevation. Additionally, interspecific variation in body size was greater at low elevations. This suggests a divergence of body size with warming, although local factors may also play a role in shaping functional traits.


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How to Cite

Massa, C., Hille Ris Lambers, J., & Richman, S. K. (2024). Species-specific differences in bumblebee worker body size between different elevations: Implications for pollinator community structure under climate change. Journal of Pollination Ecology, 36, 112–121. https://doi.org/10.26786/1920-7603(2024)779



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