Bees manage to keep up with early springs

HoneybeeIf we are to believe the world’s number one pollinators, spring currently starts about 10 days earlier than it did 130 years ago.

Since 1880 bees have been keeping pace with rising temperatures by coming out of hibernation and starting pollination early.

According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences most of the time shift took place since the 1970’s when average land temperatures rose most rapidly.

What exactly triggers the spring emergence of bees is unknown. They may just decide to come out of hibernation when temperatures have been above a certain threshold for a set number of days.

In stride with plants

What is clear is that their activity is synchronous with the flowering of the host-plants the bees pollinate. Which means the bees are able to find enough nourishment to survive the extra ten days. In this manner the early spring doesn’t seem to be a contributing factor to CCD. It might however be in other more unexpected ways.

It seems like a bit of good news that plants and bees are keeping up with the changing climate. But for how long can they keep it up? Over time rising temperatures could create a mismatch between the timing of ecological processes that rely on mutualistic interactions, like bees and their flowering plants.

© Jorn van Dooren |

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