Guest talk: Impact of elevated temperatures on bumblebee phenotype, cognition and foraging behaviour by Max Gerard

Friday, 8. March 2024
14:00 - 15:30


Neurobiology / James Foster

Max Gerard, Université de Mons in Belgium

Impact of elevated temperatures on bumblebee phenotype, cognition and foraging behaviour

Pollination is one of the most crucial ecosystem services, enhancing the reproduction of many plant species, including food crops worldwide. An increasing number of studies have reported drastic wild bee declines, partly as a result of climate change. Among wild bees, shifts of distribution and phenology as a response to thermal constraints are well studied, and the role of climate change in population decline is increasingly evident for some groups like bumblebees. However, the proximate causes of this climate change associated decline, as well as the functional consequences, are still poorly understood. During the last few years, I studied how bumblebee phenotype could be impacted by elevated temperature. Potential changes in bumblebee phenotype (e.g. wings or body size) could then affect their fitness, notably by impeding navigation. Moreover, bumblebees are central place foragers: they must locate floral resources, fly to them efficiently, handle the flowers, return to their nest and then remember where to find the most productive feeding sites. These behaviours require cognitive capacities such as learning and memory. A second part of this talk will thus focus on how elevated temperature could impact bumblebee cognition, and foraging behaviour.

Dr. Maxence Gérard is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Zoology of the University of Mons (Belgium), in a research group studying wild bee diversity, taxonomy and ecology. During his PhD, his research focused on the impact of different stressors and environmental conditions on bee phenotype. He assessed how wing shape, size, asymmetry and body size were impacted by elevated temperature, inbreeding or pathogens. Currently, he is working on the impact of heat on bee’s behaviour, especially on their cognitive abilities, and foraging behaviour. Specifically, he is assessing if elevated temperature impacts associative learning and short-term memory among bumblebees, and if different foraging parameters like the number of flowers visited, the foraging time and the number of foraging trips could be affected when suffering a heat stress.