The Influence of Heatwaves on Bumble Bee Immunity and Parasite Infection

Publication Date


Document Type



Biological Sciences


Benjamin Sadd

Mentor Department

Biological Sciences


Ongoing human induced climate change is increasing the frequency and duration of heatwaves, a pattern that is predicted to continue. These events represent important stresses for organisms that are shifted from their physiological optima. Ectotherms living in temperate areas may be particularly susceptible to the effects of heatwaves, and heatwaves may interact with other threats from the environment, such as disease, to compromise population health. The thermal stress hypothesis suggests that thermal environments where maintenance of biological functions is energetically costly will reduce performance, and this will influence the ability of organisms to respond to the surrounding biotic environment. We tested the thermal stress hypothesis in relation to longevity, antibacterial immunity, and resistance to parasite infection in age-controlled adult bumble bees exposed to a simulated ecologically relevant heatwave versus bees experiencing a standard control thermal regime. Analyses of immunity and infection outcome are ongoing. However, survival data showed that heatwave treatment had a significant effect on subsequent survival, with decreased survival in heatwave-exposed individuals, which suggests that heatwaves can have important health related consequences for adult bumble bees. This work demonstrates how bumble bee health, and broadly pollinator health, can be impacted by the effects of climate change and will help guide predictions about the fate of our pollinators in the face of current threats to population stability.



This document is currently not available here.