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PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19997. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019997. Epub 2011 May 16.

Space use of bumblebees (Bombus spp.) revealed by radio-tracking.

Author information

1
Biological Collection, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany. melanie.hagen@web.de

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Accurate estimates of movement behavior and distances travelled by animals are difficult to obtain, especially for small-bodied insects where transmitter weights have prevented the use of radio-tracking.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Here, we report the first successful use of micro radio telemetry to track flight distances and space use of bumblebees. Using ground surveys and Cessna overflights in a Central European rural landscape mosaic we obtained maximum flight distances of 2.5 km, 1.9 km and 1.3 km for Bombus terrestris (workers), Bombus ruderatus (worker), and Bombus hortorum (young queens), respectively. Bumblebee individuals used large areas (0.25-43.53 ha) within one or a few days. Habitat analyses of one B. hortorum queen at the landscape scale indicated that gardens within villages were used more often than expected from habitat availability. Detailed movement trajectories of this individual revealed that prominent landscape structures (e.g. trees) and flower patches were repeatedly visited. However, we also observed long (i.e. >45 min) resting periods between flights (B. hortorum) and differences in flower-handling between bumblebees with and without transmitters (B. terrestris) suggesting that the current weight of transmitters (200 mg) may still impose significant energetic costs on the insects.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

Spatio-temporal movements of bumblebees can now be tracked with telemetry methods. Our measured flight distances exceed many previous estimates of bumblebee foraging ranges and suggest that travelling long distances to food resources may be common. However, even the smallest currently available transmitters still appear to compromise flower handling performance and cause an increase in resting behavior of bees. Future reductions of transmitter mass and size could open up new avenues for quantifying landscape-scale space use of insect pollinators and could provide novel insights into the behavior and requirements of bumblebees during critical life stages, e.g. when searching for mates, nest locations or hibernation sites.

PMID:
21603569
PMCID:
PMC3095635
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0019997
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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