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Journal Article

A Study of the Hibernation of Bumblebees (Hymenoptera:Bombidae) in Southern England

D. V. Alford
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 38, No. 1 (Feb., 1969), pp. 149-170
DOI: 10.2307/2743
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2743
Page Count: 22

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Topics: Hibernation, Species, Queens, Queen honey bees, Sandy soils, Desert soils, Honey, Colonies, Fats, Animal nesting
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A Study of the Hibernation of Bumblebees (Hymenoptera:Bombidae) in Southern England
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Abstract

1. The ecological conditions under which bumblebees hibernate have been investigated and differences noted in the type of site chosen for overwintering by certain species. Bombus lapidarius (L.), B. hortorum (L.) and Psithyrus Lepeletier species typically hibernate in banks or slopes, while Bombus terrestris (L.), B. lucorum (L.) and B. pratorum (L.) usually hibernate below the soil-litter interface close to trees. 2. It is confirmed that shaded, well-drained sites with a north-west exposure are most frequented, and that queens do not normally hibernate about the entrance to their maternal nest. 3. Bumblebees were most frequently found hibernating in the soil in spherical or oval chambers at a depth of 8 cm, but the depths at which queens occurred varied considerably according to ground conditions. Thus, B. lapidarius queens were found at a mean depth of 5 cm in chalky soil and 8 cm in lighter, sandy soil. 4. The behaviour of queens at hibernation sites before, during and after hibernation is described and that of spring queens parasitized by Sphaerularia bombi Dufour is discussed. Healthy spring queens do not habitually use hibernation sites as night refuges, prior to founding colonies. 5. A brief account of the physiology of hibernating queens is given. Most reserves of honey and fat present in queens at the commencement of hibernation are utilized in the autumn. Glycogen reserves, however, are apparently consumed mainly in the winter months. 6. Studies of the spring emergence of bumblebees have demonstrated that spring temperatures in hibernacular positions typical of early-emerging species such as Bombus lucorum show higher daily maxima than subterranean temperatures in positions typical of later-emerging species such as B. lapidarius. The effect of ecological conditions on the emergence of bumblebees from hibernation is discussed.

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