Bumblebees: Carbon dioxide affects reproduction


Experts recently revealed how carbon dioxide affects bee physiologyincluding reproduction. The chemical appears to bypass diapause, the hibernation-like phase in which bees sleep throughout the winter. A way to activate the reproductive process in bumblebee queens. Carbon dioxide appears to induce a change in metabolism which then has secondary consequences on reproduction.


Previously, it was believed that CO2 directly affected reproduction, but this study is one of the first pieces of evidence to show that this is probably not the case. We have found that CO2 changes the way macronutrients are stored and reallocated in the body. The fact that the reproductive process is then started is only an artifact of these processes.

Etya Amsalem, associate professor of entomology

The chemical compound is used by beekeepers and scientists to quell bees and insects in general. In addition to a calming effect, it gives physiological responses. There are several reasons for the implementation of this study. The first is that carbon dioxide is a useful tool for commercial apiaries (in bumblebees) to produce colonies for annual pollination. The second is that the chemical compound affects the search results. 


Scholars have carried out various experiments. One among others was the one where we wanted to better understand the physiological effects of carbon dioxide on bumblebee queens. For the experiment, the bees were divided into two groups: one treated with carbon dioxide and the other without. The bees were monitored immediately after treatment, then after three days and after 10 days. During these three moments, the researchers checked the ovaries and measured the concentration of macronutrients in different tissues. Information on metabolism was obtained. 


Queens treated with carbon dioxide showed higher levels of ovarian activation than those not treated. A change also recorded in the allocation of macronutrients with increased glycogen and protein in the ovaries. In practice, carbon dioxide affects reproduction and metabolism . So two more groups were created: one group of queens without ovaries and another group treated with a juvenile hormone antagonist.

The latter speeds up the metabolism, regulates reproduction and reduces the youth hormone . Bees with their ovaries removed had a similar change in macronutrients to bees with their ovaries still in place. Carbon dioxide therefore affects the metabolism first, as bees without ovaries have yet to experience the same effect. 

Bees with the juvenile hormone inhibitor did not show these metabolic effects. This hormone therefore confirms its role as a mediator of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide affects all insects. Researchers are trying to find the precise process or mechanism that is creating these effects. There is coherence in the influence on metabolism, but not on reproduction. 

  • New clues about how carbon dioxide affects bumble bee reproduction (


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