Climate changes are predicted to affect the diapause of many insect species around the world adversely. In this context, bees are of interest due to their pollination services. In southern Brazil, the highly eusocial bee species Plebeia droryana (Friese) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) exhibits reproductive diapause in response to the region's rigorous winters. That diapause is characterized by a temporary interruption in brood cell construction by nurse bees and egg-laying by the queen, regardless of other internal tasks underway in the nests. In this study, we evaluated whether P. droryana enter diapause under experimental conditions. P. droryana colonies were kept in a germination chamber, and the temperature was progressively reduced from 20°C over a period of a few weeks until diapause was detected. Additionally, we also estimated the environmental conditions in the actual geographic range occupied by P. droryana and modeled it for predicted changes in climate up to the year 2080. Our findings indicate that P. droryana enter diapause between 10 and 8°C. We also found that the current minimum winter temperature (10.1°C, median) in the distributional range of P. droryana will probably rise (13.4°C, median). Thus, if our experimental data are somewhat accurate, ∼36% of the southern Brazilian P. droryana population may be active during the expected milder winter months in 2080. In this scenario, there may be a larger demand for pollen and nectar for that bee species. Greater conservation efforts will be required to preserve P. droryana populations and keep them viable in the coming decades.
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Vol. 44 • No. 4