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Individual study: Captive rearing of buff-tailed bumblebee queens Bombus terrestris dalmatinus; second generation colonies are larger in laboratory studies at the University of Akdeniz, Antalya, Turkey

Published source details

Gurel F. & Gosterit A. (2009) The suitability of native Bombus terrestris dalmatinus (Hymenoptera: Apidae) queen for mass rearing. Journal of Apicultural Science, 53, 67-73


Bumblebees Bombus spp. are declining in Europe and America and captive rearing is one strategy to augment or re-introduce populations. Buff-tailed bumblebees are mass-reared commercially for pollination, mostly using the Mediterranean subspecies Bombus terrestris dalmatinus. This study tests standard commercial rearing techniques for this subspecies over two generations, in laboratory studies at the University of Akdeniz, Antalya, Turkey.

Fifty naturally mated queens were collected from flowers on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey in autumn 2006. Each was anaesthetized with CO2 for 30 minutes, then placed in a small box with newly emerged B. terrestris workers. Once the first brood of new workers emerged, colonies were transferred to larger boxes. Both boxes were kept at 28° C and 60% relative humidity, under red light, with pollen and sugar water freely supplied.

Newly emerged queens and males from different colonies were placed in mating cages. Mated queens were hibernated at 4° C for 45 days, then induced to form colonies as above.
Bees and colonies were monitored daily, and live and dead bees counted throughout the colony cycle.

Twenty-seven second generation queens were produced from the original 50 queens. 64% of first generation queens and 81% of second generation queens laid eggs. Seventy-four percent of second generation queens formed colonies of more than 10 workers, a significantly larger proportion than the 46% of first generation queens that did so.

The length of time taken to start colonies (7.3-8.3 days), the number of eggs cells in the first brood (4.2-4.4), the timing of worker emergence (40-45 days) and the total number of queens produced (10-13) were similar in first and second generations.
But second generation colonies produced around 60% more workers (average 121 workers/colony, compared to 72 workers/colony in the first generation), significantly more males (average 71 males/colony, compared to 30 for first generation colonies) and completed the colony cycle significantly more quickly than first generation colonies. In the second generation, new queen eggs were laid after 11 days on average, compared to 56 days in the first generation colonies.
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