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Bumble bees are generalist pollinators that typically collect floral rewards from a wide array of flowering plant species. Among the greatest threats to wild bumble bee populations worldwide, many of which are declining, is a loss of floral resource abundance and diversity in the landscapes they inhabit. We examined how composition of pollen diet impacts early nesting success in laboratory-reared queens of the bumble bee Bombus impatiens. Specifically, we provided queens and their young nests with one of three pollen diets, each of which was dominated by a single pollen type, and explored how this diet treatment influenced the length of time until queens initiated nests, total counts of brood in the nest at the end of the experiment (8 wk later), and the size and weight of adult offspring produced. We found that the amount of later-stage brood (pupae and/or adults) produced by recently-initiated nests was strongly impacted by pollen diet. For example, on average 66% fewer later-stage brood were found in nests provided with the Cistus pollen Linnaeus (Cistaceae), relative to the predominantly Asteraceae pollen. This finding suggests that particular pollen diet compositions may delay larval growth, which delays colony development and may ultimately be detrimental for young nests. This study sheds light on how one of the leading stressors for bumble bees (nutritional stress) may negatively impact populations through its influence on brood production during the nest-founding stage of the colony cycle.
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