The Impacts of Early-Life Experience on Bee Phenotypes and Fitness

Clare C. Rittschof, Amanda S. Denny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Across diverse animal species, early-life experiences have lifelong impacts on a variety of traits. The scope of these impacts, their implications, and the mechanisms that drive these effects are central research foci for a variety of disciplines in biology, from ecology and evolution to molecular biology and neuroscience. Here, we review the role of early life in shaping adult phenotypes and fitness in bees, emphasizing the possibility that bees are ideal species to investigate variation in early-life experience and its consequences at both individual and population levels. Bee early life includes the larval and pupal stages, critical time periods during which factors like food availability,maternal care, and temperature set the phenotypic trajectory for an individual's lifetime. We discuss how some common traits impacted by these experiences, including development rate and adult body size, influence fitness at the individual level, with possible ramifications at the population level. Finally, we review ways in which human alterations to the landscapemay impact bee populations through early-life effects. This review highlights aspects of bees' natural history and behavioral ecology that warrant further investigation with the goal of understanding how environmental disturbances threaten these vulnerable species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-824
Number of pages17
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science


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