Morphological characterization and staging of bumble bee pupae

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18 Scopus citations


Bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Bombus) are important pollinators and models for studying mechanisms underlying developmental plasticity, such as factors influencing size, immunity, and social behaviors. Research on such processes, as well as expanding use of gene-manipulation and gene expression technologies, requires a detailed understanding of how these bees develop. Developmental research often uses time-staging of pupae, however dramatic size differences in these bees can generate variation in developmental timing. To study developmental mechanisms in bumble bees, appropriate staging of developing bees using morphology is necessary. In this study, we describe morphological changes across development in several bumble bee species and use this to establish morphology-based staging criteria, establishing 20 distinct illustrated stages. These criteria, defined largely by eye and cuticle pigmentation patterns, are generalizable across members of the subgenus Pyrobombus, and can be used as a framework for study of other bumble bee subgenera. We examine the effects of temperature, caste, size, and species on pupal development, revealing that pupal duration shifts with each of these factors, confirming the importance of staging pupae based on morphology rather than age and the need for standardizing sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere6089
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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