How Climate Change Affects Male Miner Bee Sex

Bee pollinating a flower

Bee pollinating a flower

Wondering about the title? Read on!

Researchers at the University of East Anglia recently analyzed the long-term patterns, dating back to 1848, of male miner bees pollinating spider orchids. They’ve concluded that climate change has affected the bees’ pollination of the flowers, and could spell trouble in the future.

Here’s how it works: The male miner bee pollinates spider orchids because the flowers release a specific sex pheromone similar to that of a female miner bee. After hibernation, the male bees wake up before the females and, lured in by the orchids, pollinate with them (referred to as “pseudocopulation”). When the female miner bees wake up some days after that, the male bees find them and reproduce.

But because of global warming and its accompanying temperature increases, the female bees are emerging earlier than usual, (in one case, 15 days earlier). Naturally, the male bees are much more interested in the female bees compared to the orchids’ imitation pheromones.

The male bees are having so much sex with their female counterparts that they’re not pollinating (or pseudocopulating) with the orchids. And this could mean lower crop productivity down the line. As researcher Dr. Karen Robbirt puts it, “The orchids are likely to be outcompeted by the real thing.”

Who would’ve thought our future crop productivity might well depend on…bee sex? Not a lot of people, I’m guessing.

Now if you need a random fact to impress anyone/fill the silence, you’re all set!

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