The temperature of the nest influences fitness in cavity-nesting bees. Females may choose nest cavities that mitigate their offspring’s exposure to stressful temperatures. This study aims to understand how cavity temperature impacts the nesting preference of the solitary bee Megachile rotundata (Fabricius) under field conditions. We designed and 3D printed nest boxes that measured the temperatures of 432 cavities. Nest boxes were four-sided with cavity entrances facing northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest. Nest boxes were placed along an alfalfa field in Fargo, ND and were observed daily for completed nests. Our study found that cavity temperature varied by direction the cavity faced and by the position of the cavity within the nest box. The southwest sides recorded the highest maximum temperatures while the northeast sides recorded the lowest maximum temperatures. Nesting females filled cavities on the north-facing sides faster than cavities on the south-facing sides. The bees preferred to nest in cavities with lower average temperatures during foraging hours, and cavities that faced to the north. The direction the cavity faced was associated with the number of offspring per nest. The southwest-facing cavities had fewer offspring than nests on the northeast side. Our study indicates that the nesting box acts as a microclimate, with temperature varying by position and direction of the cavity. Variation in cavity temperature affected where females chose to nest, but not their reproductive investment.
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Written By: Elisabeth S Wilson, Claire E Murphy, Joseph P Rinehart, George Yocum, Julia H Bowsher