Almost every year, a high school student joins our lab to carry out a 4-month research project. In September 2013, Nick Orrego joined our lab to investigate how changes in local weather patterns influence sweat bee body size. We already had quite a bit of evidence showing that when weather conditions are generally warm and dry, bees produce larger offspring, whereas in cool, rainy conditions, they tend to produce smaller offspring. In eusocial bees, differences in body size between queens and workers influence social interactions and the degree of despotism by queens. Weather therefore can influence social interactions through its effects on body sizes of queens and workers. Nick spent four months carefully measuring and dissecting females, and showed that the relationship between weather conditions and body sizes were completely supported: bees produced in the poor weather of 2012 were considerably smaller than those produced in the fine conditions of 2011 and 2013.
Nick presented his research results as a poster at the Niagara Regional Science Fair, winning two prizes – the Brock University Biology Award and The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Award! Now Nick is spending the summer as a research assistant in our lab, enlarging the data set to include 10 years of specimens, as well as several additional species.