Museum collections show that bees have been increasingly stressed by climate change over the past 100 years.

Analysis of bumblebee wings by a network of UK research institutes shows signs of stress associated with rising temperatures and humidity.

The study not only reveals what has been associated with stress in bees in the past, but also helps predict when and where bees face the greatest stress and is likely to decline in the future. Researchers suggest it helps.

Scientists from Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum have published two papers analyzing the UK’s bumblebee population.

The first survey examined the body shape of honeybee specimens dating back to 1900.

Using digital images, researchers examined bumblebee wing asymmetry as an indicator of stress.

The high degree of asymmetry between the left and right wing shapes indicates that the organism experienced stress during development. This is an external factor that affects normal growth.

A study of four British bumblebee species found evidence of increasing stress as the century progressed from a low point around 1925.

Further analysis, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, showed that each species showed consistently higher stress surrogates in the second half of the century.

After assessing the climatic conditions of the year they were collected, the research team found that the bees’ wing asymmetry increased in hot, wet years.

Co-author Aoife Cantwell-Jones, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, said: Through historical space and time, we can more accurately track the factors that are putting pressure on populations. ”

Co-author Andrés Arce, now at Suffolk University, added:

Dr Andres Arce analyzing a bumblebee at the National Museum of Scotland (Ashleigh Whiffin/Imperial College London/PA)

“We hope to be able to predict when and where bumblebees are most at risk and target effective conservation efforts.”

Dr. Richard Gill, also senior co-author of Imperial, said: 21st Century. “

In a second study published in Methods in Ecology & Evolution, the team successfully sequenced the genomes of over 100 bumblebee museum specimens dating back more than 130 years.

They used for the first time methods commonly used to study insect populations of woolly mammoths and ancient humans.

In addition to providing a new reference genome, the team will use this data to study how the genome of honeybees changed over time, and how the entire population adapted to changes in the environment. , or did not adapt.

Dr. Victoria Mullin, co-author of the Museum of Natural History, said:

“But they are a finite resource, and it’s important to understand how best to use them for genetic research.”

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