Life-history traits predict responses of wild bees to climate variation

Gabriella L. Pardee, Sean R. Griffin, Michael Stemkovski, Tina Harrison, Zachary M. Portman, Melanie R. Kazenel, Joshua S. Lynn, David W. Inouye, Rebecca E. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Life-history traits, which are physical traits or behaviours that affect growth, survivorship and reproduction, could play an important role in how well organisms respond to environmental change. By looking for trait-based responses within groups, we can gain a mechanistic understanding of why environmental change might favour or penalize certain species over others. We monitored the abundance of at least 154 bee species for 8 consecutive years in a subalpine region of the Rocky Mountains to ask whether bees respond differently to changes in abiotic conditions based on their life-history traits. We found that comb-building cavity nesters and larger bodied bees declined in relative abundance with increasing temperatures, while smaller, soil-nesting bees increased. Further, bees with narrower diet breadths increased in relative abundance with decreased rainfall. Finally, reduced snowpack was associated with reduced relative abundance of bees that overwintered as prepupae whereas bees that overwintered as adults increased in relative abundance, suggesting that overwintering conditions might affect body size, lipid content and overwintering survival. Taken together, our results show how climate change may reshape bee pollinator communities, with bees with certain traits increasing in abundance and others declining, potentially leading to novel plant-pollinator interactions and changes in plant reproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20212697
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1973
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2022


  • Body size
  • fourth corner
  • lag-effects
  • montane systems
  • nesting behaviour
  • temperature


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