Global warming is extending growing seasons in temperate zones, yielding earlier wildflower blooms. Short-term field experiments with non-social bees showed that adult emergence is responsive to nest substrate temperatures. Nonetheless, some posit that global warming will decouple bee flight and host bloom periods, leading to pollination shortfalls and bee declines. Resolving these competing scenarios requires evidence for bees’ natural plasticity in their annual emergence schedules. This study reports direct observations spanning 12–24 years for annual variation in the earliest nesting or foraging activities by 1–4 populations of four native ground-nesting bees: Andrena fulva
(Andrenidae), Halictus rubicundus
(Halictidae), Habropoda laboriosa
(Apidae). Calendar dates of earliest annual bee activity ranged across 25 to 45 days, approximating reported multi-decadal ranges for published wildflower bloom dates. Within a given year, the bee H. rubicundus
emerged in close synchrony at multiple local aggregations, explicable if meteorological factors cue emergence. Emergence dates were relatable to thermal cues, such as degree day accumulation, soil temperature at nesting depth, and the first pulse of warm spring air temperatures. Similar seasonal flexibilities in bee emergence and wildflower bloom schedules bodes well for bees and bloom to generally retain synchrony despite a warming climate. Future monitoring studies can benefit from several simple methodological improvements.
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