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  1. Abstract

    The mechanisms that underlie senescence are not well understood in insects. Telomeres are conserved repetitive sequences at chromosome ends that protect DNA during replication. In many vertebrates, telomeres shorten during cell division and in response to stress and are often used as a cellular marker of senescence. However, little is known about telomere dynamics across the lifespan in invertebrates. We measured telomere length in larvae, prepupae, pupae, and adults of two species of solitary bees,Osmia lignariaandMegachile rotundata. Contrary to our predictions, telomere length was longer in later developmental stages in bothO. lignariaandM. rotundata.Longer telomeres occurred after emergence from diapause, which is a physiological state with increased tolerance to stress. InO. lignaria, telomeres were longer in adults when they emerged following diapause. InM. rotundata, telomeres were longer in the pupal stage and subsequent adult stage, which occurs after prepupal diapause. In both species, telomere length did not change during the 8 months of diapause. Telomere length did not differ by mass similarly across species or sex. We also did not see a difference in telomere length after adultO. lignariawere exposed to a nutritional stress, nor did length change during their adult lifespan. Taken together, these results suggest that telomere dynamics in solitary bees differ from what is commonly reported in vertebrates and suggest that insect diapause may influence telomere dynamics.

     
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  2. Within the United States and Canada, the primary pollinator of alfalfa is the alfalfa leafcutting bee (ALCB), Megachile rotundata . Our previous findings showed that overwintering conditions impacted gene expression profile in ALCB prepupae that entered diapause early in the season. However, ALCB are a bivoltine species, which begs the question of whether bees entering diapause later in the season also show this trend. To better understand the effects of the timing of diapause initiation, we analyzed mRNA copy number of genes known to be involved in diapause regulation in early and late season diapausing ALCB that were overwintered in field conditions or using current agricultural management conditions. We hypothesized that overwintering conditions for late diapausing bees also affects gene expression profiles. Our results showed that expression profiles were altered by both overwintering condition and timing of diapause initiation, with bees that entered diapause earlier in the season showing different expression patterns than those that entered diapause later in the season. This trend was seen in expression of members of the cyclin family and several targets of the insulin signaling pathway, including forkhead box protein O (FOXO), which is known to be important for diapause regulation and stress responses. But, of the genes screened, the proto-oncogene, Myc , was the most impacted by the timing of diapause initiation. Under field conditions, there were significant differences in Myc expression between the early and late season samples in all months except for November and February. This same general trend in Myc expression was also seen in the laboratory-maintained bees with significant difference in expression in all months except for November, February, and May. These results support previous conclusions from our research showing that the molecular regulation of diapause development in ALCB is not a simple singular cascade of gene expression but a highly plastic response that varies between bees depending upon their environmental history. 
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  3. ABSTRACT Variable spring temperatures may expose developing insects to sublethal conditions, resulting in long-term consequences. The alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata, overwinters as a prepupa inside a brood cell, resuming development in spring. During these immobile stages of development, bees must tolerate unfavorable temperatures. In this study, we tested how exposure to low temperature stress during development affects subsequent reproduction and characteristics of the F1 generation. Developing male and female M. rotundata were exposed to either constant (6°C) or fluctuating (1 h day−1 at 20°C) low temperature stress for 1 week, during the pupal stage, to mimic a spring cold snap. Treated adults were marked and released into field cages, and reproductive output was compared with that of untreated control bees. Exposure to low temperatures during the pupal stage had mixed effects on reproduction and offspring characteristics. Females treated with fluctuating low temperatures were more likely to nest compared with control bees or those exposed to constant low temperature stress. Sublethal effects may have contributed to low nesting rates of bees exposed to constant low temperatures. Females from that group that were able to nest had fewer, larger offspring with high viability, suggesting a trade-off. Interestingly, offspring of bees exposed to fluctuating low temperatures were more likely to enter diapause, indicating that thermal history of parents, even during development, is an important factor in diapause determination. 
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  5. Abstract

    Megachile rotundata (F.) is an important pollinator of alfalfa in the United States. Enhancing landscapes with wildflowers is a primary strategy for conserving pollinators and may improve the sustainability of M. rotundata. Changing cold storage temperatures from a traditionally static thermal regime (STR) to a fluctuating thermal regime (FTR) improves overwintering success and extends M. rotundata’s shelf life and pollination window. Whether floral resources enhance overwintering survival and/or interact with a thermal regime are unknown. We tested the combined effects of enhancing alfalfa fields with wildflowers and thermal regime on survival and macronutrient stores under extended cold storage (i.e., beyond one season). Megachile rotundata adults were released in alfalfa plots with and without wildflower strips. Completed nests were harvested in September and stored in STR. After a year, cells were randomly assigned to remain in STR for 6 months or in FTR for a year of extended cold storage; emergence rates were observed monthly. Macronutrient levels of emerged females were assessed. FTR improved M. rotundata survival but there was no measurable effect of wildflower strips on overwintering success or nutrient stores. Timing of nest establishment emerged as a key factor: offspring produced late in the season had lower winter survival and dry body mass. Sugars and glycogen stores increased under FTR but not STR. Trehalose levels were similar across treatments. Total lipid stores depleted faster under FTR. While wildflowers did not improve M. rotundata survival, our findings provide mechanistic insight into benefits and potential costs of FTR for this important pollinator.

     
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  7. O’Donnell, Sean (Ed.)
    Abstract Variation in body size has important implications for physical performance and fitness. For insects, adult size and morphology are determined by larval growth and metamorphosis. Female blue orchard bees, Osmia lignaria, (Say) provision a finite quantity of food to their offspring. In this study, we asked how provision-dependent variation in size changes adult morphology. We performed a diet manipulation in which some larvae were starved in the final instar and some were given unlimited food. We examined the consequences on adult morphology in two ways. First, allometric relationships between major body regions (head, thorax, abdomen) and total body mass were measured to determine relative growth of these structures. Second, morphometrics that are critical for flight (wing area, wing loading, and extra flight power index) were quantified. Head and thorax mass had hyperallometric relationships with body size, indicating these parts become disproportionately large in adults when larvae are given copious provisions. However, abdominal mass and wing area increased hypoallometrically with body size. Thus, large adults had disproportionately lighter abdomens and smaller wing areas than smaller adults. Though both males and females followed these general patterns, allometric patterns were affected by sex. For flight metrics, small adults had reduced wing loading and an increased extra flight power index. These results suggest that diet quantity alters development in ways that affect the morphometric trait relationships in adult O. lignaria and may lead to functional differences in performance. 
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  8. Insects can experience functional hypoxia, a situation in which O 2 supply is inadequate to meet oxygen demand. Assessing when functional hypoxia occurs is complex, because responses are graded, age and tissue dependent, and compensatory. Here, we compare information gained from metabolomics and transcriptional approaches and by manipulation of the partial pressure of oxygen. Functional hypoxia produces graded damage, including damaged macromolecules and inflammation. Insects respond by compensatory physiological and morphological changes in the tracheal system, metabolic reorganization, and suppression of activity, feeding, and growth. There is evidence for functional hypoxia in eggs, near the end of juvenile instars, and during molting. Functional hypoxia is more likely in species with lower O 2 availability or transport capacities and when O 2 need is great. Functional hypoxia occurs normally during insect development and is a factor in mediating life-history trade-offs. 
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