Body size is arguably one of the most important traits influencing the physiology and ecology of animals. Shifts in animal body size have been observed in response to climate change, including in bumble bees (Bombus spp. [Hymenoptera: Apidae]). Bumble bee size shifts have occurred concurrently with the precipitous population declines of several species, which appear to be related, in part, to their size. Body size variation is central to the ecology of bumble bees, from their social organization to the pollination services they provide to plants. If bumble bee size is shifted or constrained, there may be consequences for the pollination services they provide and for our ability to predict their responses to global change. Yet, there are still many aspects of the breadth and role of bumble bee body size variation that require more study. To this end, we review the current evidence of the ecological drivers of size variation in bumble bees and the consequences of that variation on bumble bee fitness, foraging, and species interactions. In total we review: (1) the proximate determinants and physiological consequences of size variation in bumble bees; (2) the environmental drivers and ecological consequences of size variation; and (3) synthesize our understanding of size variation in predicting how bumble bees will respond to future changes in climate and land use. As global change intensifies, a better understanding of the factors influencing the size distributions of bumble bees, and the consequences of those distributions, will allow us to better predict future responses of these pollinators.
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Vol. 51 • No. 6