Effects of Temperature and Wildflower Strips on Survival and Macronutrient Stores of the Alfalfa Leafcutting Bee (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) Under Extended Cold Storage


Megachile rotundata (F.) is an important pollinator of alfalfa in the United States. Enhancing landscapes with wildflowers is a primary strategy for conserving pollinators and may improve the sustainability of M. rotundata. Changing cold storage temperatures from a traditionally static thermal regime (STR) to a fluctuating thermal regime (FTR) improves overwintering success and extends M. rotundata’s shelf life and pollination window. Whether floral resources enhance overwintering survival and/or interact with a thermal regime are unknown. We tested the combined effects of enhancing alfalfa fields with wildflowers and thermal regime on survival and macronutrient stores under extended cold storage (i.e., beyond one season). Megachile rotundata adults were released in alfalfa plots with and without wildflower strips. Completed nests were harvested in September and stored in STR. After a year, cells were randomly assigned to remain in STR for 6 months or in FTR for a year of extended cold storage; emergence rates were observed monthly. Macronutrient levels of emerged females were assessed. FTR improved M. rotundata survival but there was no measurable effect of wildflower strips on overwintering success or nutrient stores. Timing of nest establishment emerged as a key factor: offspring produced late in the season had lower winter survival and dry body mass. Sugars and glycogen stores increased under FTR but not STR. Trehalose levels were similar across treatments. Total lipid stores depleted faster under FTR. While wildflowers did not improve M. rotundata survival, our findings provide mechanistic insight into benefits and potential costs of FTR for this important pollinator.



alfalfa leafcutting bee, fluctuating thermal regime, insect storage, macronutrients, wildflower strips


Park, Mia G., Casey M. Delphia, Cassandra Prince, George D. Yocum, Joseph P. Rinehart, Kevin M. O’Neill, Laura A. Burkle, Julia H. Bowsher, and Kendra J. Greenlee. "Effects of temperature and wildflower strips on survival and macronutrient stores of the alfalfa leafcutting Bee (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) under extended cold storage." Environmental Entomology 51, no. 5 (2022): 958-968.
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