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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris queens bred in captivity become lighter over successive generations; laboratory studies at the University of Amsterdam, Noord Holland, the Netherlands

Published source details

Beekman M., Van Stratum P. & Lingeman R. (2000) Artificial rearing of bumble bees Bombus terrestris selects against heavy queens. Journal of Apicultural Research, 39, 61-65

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Rear declining bumblebees in captivity Bee Conservation

Beekman et al. (2000) reared B. terrestris in the laboratory over four years, with one to three generations per year, starting with the progeny of 47 wild-caught queens in 1993. A total of 170 colonies were reared altogether. Queens were mated in mating cages, hibernated for two to four months and induced to form colonies by confining with two to four honey bee workers in standard rearing conditions. They found a significant linear decrease in average queen weight over time, from 0.83 g in 1993 to 0.73 g in 1996. Since queens weighing less than 0.6 g do not survive hibernation, this change would be of concern in the context of captive-bred releases. Beekman et al.'s experimental results suggest it is caused by a nutrient deficiency, rather than inbreeding or reallocation of resources within colonies.