Scientists Accidentally Discovered That Hibernating Bumblebee Queens Can Survive Underwater For Up To One Full Week

Henk Wallays/Wirestock - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual bee

You may not think of bugs as tough, powerful creatures since most of them can be easily squashed with a stomp of your foot. But, some insects can accomplish great feats of survival that no human could ever do.

In an accidental discovery, researchers learned that hibernating bumblebee queens can survive underwater for up to a week. The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.

Biologists came across the surprising phenomenon while studying the effects of pesticide exposure on hibernating queens from the common eastern bumblebee species at a laboratory at the University of Guelph in Canada.

The queen bees were kept in tubes filled with soil in a refrigerator, which acted as a recreation of their natural hibernation environment during the winter.

One day, condensation in the refrigerator caused four of the tubes to be filled with water. As a result, the queen bees were completely submerged.

“I kind of freaked out,” Sabrina Rondeau, an ecologist now at the University of Ottawa, told New Scientist. “I was sure the queens were dead.”

However, when she removed the queens from the water, they started fidgeting and moving around. The fact that the bees were still alive was shocking because they were not anatomically designed to be underwater.

Rondeau and her colleague, Nigel Raine, an environmental scientist at the University of Guelph, decided to conduct further studies to test the resilience of queen bees.

They gathered 143 common eastern bumblebee queens and placed each of them in their own soil-filled vials in the refrigerator. The control group consisted of 17 bees that were not submerged in water during hibernation.

Henk Wallays/Wirestock – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual bee

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