Location: Insect Genetics and Biochemistry Research
Project Number: 3060-21220-032-014-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Sep 1, 2021
End Date: Aug 31, 2024
The objective of this research is to assess the impact of environmental stress on pollinator quality, insect size on pollinator efficiency, and to characterize the molecular basis of diapause in the alfalfa leafcutting bee. Stressors investigated will include those associated with transportation (such as vibration and temperature extremes), and the observed consequences of stress will include sub-lethal effects including changes in respiration/metabolism, effects on rhythmicity, and reduction in reproductive fitness. Insect size experiments will involve cavity nesting bees, and will include determining how cavity size affects the size of resultant adults, as well as how this may affect parameters associated with pollination efficiency. Diapause incidence studies will investigate the effects of nutrition, temperature, and photoperiod on diapause induction, and how these changes are realized at the molecular level.
The USDA-ARS will provide research space and material support including alfalfa leafcutting bees, bumble bees, and honey bees as needed for the project. The collaborator will provide expertise in insect stress physiology, insect metabolism, and molecular techniques. Shipping stress experiments will be conducted in custom-designed shipping containers owned by USDA-ARS, using metabolic rate as a metric for the level of stress being incurred by an insect or colony of insects. Each stressor will be administered by use of specially designed equipment to ensure reproducible levels of stress. Nest size experiments will also use specially designed equipment in the manner of nesting cavities of specific size produced by 3D printing and/or CNC milling. These nests will be placed in field locations with high levels of floral resources and released alfalfa leafcutting bees, after which nesting activity will be observed, and the resultant nests will be collected for further processing. Diapause incidence studies will use pre-treatments in a laboratory, followed by the release of insects into the field, after which the diapause incidence of the resultant progeny will be determined.