Bumblebees Capable of Surviving Underwater for a Week

Bumblebees Capable of Surviving Underwater for a Week

Posted in:

Recent studies reveal that bumblebees can endure up to a week submerged in water by entering a hibernation-like state.

Bumblebees Can Endure a Week Underwater While Sleeping
Bumblebees can endure a week underwater while sleeping.

Scientists have made a fascinating discovery about the common eastern bumblebee, revealing that these insects can survive underwater for up to a week. This unusual capability is detailed in a study published in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, which suggests that bumblebees can enter a state of suspended animation when submerged, conserving oxygen and energy.

Survival mechanism

The research indicates that when submerged, bumblebees drastically reduce their metabolic rate, similar to hibernation. This process allows them to conserve vital oxygen and energy resources, enabling survival in hypoxic (low oxygen) environments. This adaptation is particularly notable given that insects, unlike some amphibians and reptiles, generally have very limited ability to manage prolonged oxygen deprivation.

Implications for bumblebee behaviour

This survival strategy may explain how bumblebee queens, which often find themselves in precarious situations due to their nesting habits, manage to survive unexpected flooding. Such an ability could be crucial for enduring extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent with climate change. The study underscores the resilience of bumblebees and highlights the complex, often surprising ways wildlife adapts to environmental challenges.

Research methodology

Scientists conducted controlled laboratory experiments where they submerged bumblebee queens and closely monitored their recovery. The bees not only survived the immersion but were also able to revive and walk away after being removed from the water, demonstrating no significant long-term physical detriments.

Conservation and future studies

Understanding the physiological mechanisms behind this ability could have significant implications for the conservation of bumblebee populations, which are crucial for pollination and, thus, global food production.

Royal Society's Biology Letters