Mortality dynamics and life tables of Megachile rotundata
Donahoo, Claire Katherine
MetadataShow full item record
The alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata (F.), contributes to the pollination of more than two-thirds of alfalfa seed production in North America. However, population losses of more than 50% are common in the U.S., requiring many alfalfa seed producers to import costly bees from Canada. Understanding the mortality dynamics of M. rotundata and being able to estimate these impacts on their populations are critical for identifying ways to conserve and increase their populations. Therefore, this study had three objectives: 1) identify mortality classes for M. rotundata in brood cells; 2) experimentally manipulate parasitism and temperature to determine their impact on total mortality; and 3) estimate mortality risks using the multiple-decrement life table (M-DEC). Research was conducted over two years on a 38.5 ha alfalfa field in Toston, MT. Nest shelters were manipulated for a main temperature treatment (low vs. high) and a sub-treatment for parasitism (backing-present vs. backing-absent). Females constructed and provisioned nests during the summer and offspring mortality was assessed during the summer and the following fall. Mortality classes were then analyzed using the M-DEC model. We found no temperature-treatment effect, so our main treatment was not used in the analyses. However, for every 1 °C increase in nest-tunnel temperature, there was a 7% increase in total mortality. Nest boxes without felt backing (backing-absent) had a 43% increase in mortality over both years compared to those with felt (backing-present). Average temperature decreased by 4.4 °C from 2017 to 2018, while average relative humidity increased by 12.1%. Total mortality was approximately 15% for both years, but the proportion of each mortality class differed substantially, with death by parasitoids greatest in 2017 and death by pollen ball greatest in 2018. Mortality from each class was highly irreplaceable in that it is unlikely to be replaced by another class, and death by predation was the only cause with similar mortality between the two years. The ability to identify and quantify mortality classes and their respective irreplaceable mortality, especially for parasitoids, pollen ball, and predators, will help producers maintain and increase bee populations.