Native bees and climate change

La Trobe researcher is investigating how native bees will respond to rising temperatures

New research from La Trobe’s Dr Vanessa Kellerman is investigating how native bees will respond to rising temperatures.

“Native bees are some of the most important insects, pollinating 88% of flowering plants and 75% of crop species. Despite their important role in providing crucial ecosystem services, we have a poor understanding of how bees will fare under climate change.”

This research builds on Dr Kellerman’s existing work on how different species adapt to climate change.

“My research aims to understand the capacity for different insect species to adapt to a changing climate.  Insects represent over 80% of biodiversity on land and play a critical role in nearly every ecosystem, yet the impacts of climate change on this critical group of species is poorly understood.”

“For example, we don’t understand how climate shapes most insect distributions. We also don’t know enough about the role of phenotypic plasticity, which is the ability to change characteristics in response to the environment, when it comes to climate change.”

“We have shown that many Drosophilae, or vinegar fly, species are vulnerable to climate change, and this vulnerability arises from their limited capacity to respond via adaption and plasticity. This is particularly true for vinegar fly species that lack variation in their genes to increase their resilience to changing climates,” Dr Kellerman says.

“We will take the existing research into fruit flies to see if the same is true for native bees. We hope this work will help us understand the necessary steps towards conserving bee populations for the future.”