Effects of climate change on phenologies and distributions of bumble bees and the plants they visit

Graham H. Pyke, James D. Thomson, David W. Inouye, Timothy J. Miller

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    112 Citations (Scopus)


    Surveys of bumble bees and the plants they visit, carried out in 1974 near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado, were repeated in 2007, thus permiting the testing of hypotheses arising from observed climate change over the intervening 33-yr period. As expected, given an increase in average air temperature with climate warming and a declining temperature with increasing elevation, there have been significant shifts toward higher elevation for queens or workers or both, for most bumble bee species, for bumble bee queens when species are combined, and for two focal plant species, with no significant downward shifts. However, contrary to our hypotheses, we failed to observe significant altitudinal changes for some bumble bee species and most plant species, and observed changes in elevation were often less than the upward shift of 317 m required to maintain average temperature. As expected, community flowering phenology shifted toward earlier in the season throughout our study area, but bumble bee phenology generally did not change, resulting in decreased synchrony between bees and plants. However, we were unable to confirm the narrower expectation that phenologies of bumble bee workers and community flowering coincided in 1974 but not in 2007. As expected, because of reduced synchrony between bumble bees and community flowering, bumble bee abundance was reduced in 2007 compared with 1974. Hence, climate change in our study area has apparently resulted primarily in reduced abundance and upward shift in distribution for bumble bees and shift toward earlier seasonality for plant flowering. Quantitative disagreements between climate change expectations and our observations warrant further investigation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere01267
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


    • Altitudinal transect
    • Asynchrony
    • Bombus
    • Bumble bee
    • Community ecology
    • Elevation
    • Flowering
    • Pollination
    • Reproduction
    • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory


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