Anoxia hormesis following overwintering diapause boosts bee survivorship and adult performance

Lidia Cervantes, Giancarlo López-Martínez

Published: January 1, 2022


Insect pollination is a crucial component of our ecosystems and biodiversity, but our reliance on this ecosystem service has much broader implications. We depend on these pollination services to produce materials and food. But insect pollinators, especially bees, are in strong decline due to a plethora of factors, least of which are environmental abiotic stressors like climate change. The alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata, is the world’s most managed solitary bee and is particularly vulnerable to changes in temperature. This species spends up to ten months overwintering while being exposed to the lowest temperatures of winters and the hottest temperatures of late summer. This results in usage of energy reserves prematurely and asynchronous spring emergence with their food resource. To understand the stress response of these bees and potentially boost their performance, we applied a hormetic framework where bees were exposure to different doses of anoxia (the absence of oxygen) to trigger hormesis; a low-dose stimulatory response known to lower damage and improve performance. We used hormesis on immature bees as a post-winter treatment with the goal of improving springtime performance in adults. One hour of anoxia had no negative effect on adult springtime emergence and bees were quick to recover. These bees were more active than untreated bees, as resistant to starvation, and as long-lived. Higher exposure to anoxia (3 h) was found to be mildly hormetic and 6-h exposures were detrimental. Anoxia hormesis did not represent a significant cost on the energy reserve of overwintering bees but we found that the age at which anoxia is applied will affect the effectiveness of treatment. Our data suggest that anoxia hormesis is a viable intervention to improve springtime performance in overwintering bees.

Graphical Abstract

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