Shock Study: Bees like Warm Climates


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A study published in the Journal of Hymenoptera finds that Australian bee populations expanded with the end of the last ice age, then plateaued around 6000 years ago.

The small carpenter bees, genus Ceratina, are highly diverse, globally distributed, and comprise the sole genus in the tribe Ceratinini. Despite the diversity of the subgenus Neoceratina in the Oriental and Indo-Malayan region, Ceratina (Neoceratina) australensis is the only ceratinine species in Australia. We examine the biogeography and demography of C. australensis using haplotype variation at 677 bp of the barcoding region of COI for specimens sampled from four populations within Australia, across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. There is geographic population structure in haplotypes, suggesting an origin in the northeastern populations, spreading to southern Australia. Bayesian Skyline Plot analyses indicate that population size began to increase approximately 18,000 years ago, roughly corresponding to the end of the last glacial maximum. Population expansion then began to plateau approximately 6,000 years ago, which may correspond to a slowing or plateauing in global temperatures for the current interglacial period. The distribution of C. australensis covers a surprisingly wide range of habitats, ranging from wet subtropical forests though semi-arid scrub to southern temperate coastal dunes. The ability of small carpenter bees to occupy diverse habitats in ever changing climates makes them a key species for understanding native bee diversity and response to climate change.

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Given frequent model based predictions that climate will cause bee populations to crash, I admire the daring of an evidence based study which suggests that bee populations expand in response to increased availability of food.

25 thoughts on “Shock Study: Bees like Warm Climates

  1. So, that explains it … when the snow is flying, the bees are hiding.
    Don’t have a problem with bee stings in the Arctic or Antarctic … but then, those places are not exactly hospitable to life … just like climate alarmists.

  2. High levels of amino acids in pollen is what leads to more eggs & , as such, the quality of the pollen is a driver of larval numbers. High amino acid content pollen also engenders faster larval development.
    If there is a seasonal time constraint & there is low pollen quality then protracted larval development does not work out to more bees just because there is more plant matter. We observe risen CO2 induced greening, however consideration should also be given to the way that more CO2 results in changed plant partitioning of it’s products.
    There are reports that pollen protein content is comparatively lower around now than previously & my thinking is this can also mean there are changes in ratios of the amino acids.
    Linear extrapolation that bee numerical population will go up since it is warm & greener seems to overlook confounders. Bees that move into (expand) another pollen niche will not automatically produce more larvae if the pollen amino acid quality is low.

    • what about winter survival rates? hard to produce larvae if you don’t make it through the winter.

      • They overwinter inside their plant stem nests just fine. Many insects do this without too much difficulty. Considering how far into the arctic they are found, surviving the cold is not a problem for many species in the genus.

    • It’s rare to see honey bees in New Jersey. Why? The cold killed them off back in the ” warm” years of the 1990’s. There is a big push to provide suitable areas for the native pollinators to thrive. For example the distance from the field and shape to a wooded area where they nest. When you see fruit and vegetables in the store that looks deformed, that’s because the amount of pollination wasn’t sufficient.

      • Nope. The introduction of Varroa mites have nearly wiped out the wild honey bees in Northern US. They and the new diseases they vector have been killing hives since their introduction in 1987. Africanized bees in southern US actually hunt and kill the mites via grooming behavior, and are rapidly colonizing the southern portions of the US.

        • I thought the mites had killed the honey bees ( the domestic ones )… also. That was not the case in New Jersey. It was the cold.

        • No … I realize that there are mites, however in New Jersey the cold killed them. I was surprised as well. There is a state center near Hopewell, NJ that I attended a seminar on with a friend… reluctantly I might add. It was/is a big deal there. I believe the guy giving the talk was from the agricultural department from Rutgers. He was quite emphatic that it was the cold and not the mites. Rutgers has extensive reseach in agriculture. There was a large agricultural research center at Quaker bridge and Rte 1, that is now closed, and they told me the same thing.
          For as densely populated NJ is, it is also known as the Garden State, and at one time had more horses than any other state. Not that long ago.

  3. Bees need less energy to fly if it is warmer thanks to better thermal uplift don’t they? They can fly at like 11c and probably lower but their body is too cold for the wings to go fast enough and they tire quicker.
    “ShocK” indeed lol

    • True enough, except … thermal uplift, which occurs as temperatures are rising, is negligible at altitudes below a few meters. Bees rarely are seen at altitudes above the height of flowering plants, including trees which reach no higher than 100 meters.

  4. I have found a few of the wild bees in my yard theyre stunning furry and with blue/white supershiny stripes they buzz louder and move in a faster more zigzaggy flight path
    they adore the Lavender flowers as theyre a “buzz” feeder
    they buzz wings to loosen pollen n nectar I gather.
    sorry I cant add the picture I took as it was on a ph that died:-(

  5. We have a septic bed field that’s been a bee hive since we bought the place. It faces east/south direction and every spring the bees pour out of it by the hundreds. I mention this b/c they are forcing all new builds to have closed septic systems instead of open ones. These are not honey bees but Polyester Bees. And there are lots of crops in the area. If you want honey bees, plant bleeding hearts plants; in more shade than sun – ours are always full with (bumble) honey bees.

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