The behavioural responses of bumblebees Bombus terrestris to simulated rain

Laura A. Reeves, Ellie M. Jarvis, David A. Lawson, Sean A. Rands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Bumblebee activity typically decreases during rainfall, putting them under the threat of the increased frequency of precipitation due to climate change. A novel rain machine was used within a flight arena to observe the behavioural responses of bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) to simulated rain at both a colony and individual level. During rainfall, a greater proportion of workers left the arena than entered, the opposite of which was seen during dry periods, implying that they compensate for their lack of activity when conditions improve. The proportion of workers flying and foraging decreased while resting increased in rain. This pattern reversed during dry periods, providing further evidence for compensatory activity. The increase in resting behaviour during rain is thought to evade the high energetic costs of flying while wet without unnecessarily returning to the nest. This effect was not repeated in individual time budgets, measured with lone workers, suggesting that the presence of conspecifics accelerates the decision of their behavioural response, perhaps via local enhancement. Bumblebees probably use social cues to strategize their energetic expenditure during precipitation, allowing them to compensate for the reduced foraging activity during rainfall when conditions improve.

Original languageEnglish
Article number231882
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number5
Early online date29 May 2024
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2024

Data Availability Statement

The dataset and R code used are freely available on Figshare [38].


  • climate change
  • foraging
  • pollination
  • precipitation
  • rain simulator
  • time budget

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this