Parasitic flies (Conopidae, Diptera) may be important stress factors for the ergonomics of their bumblebee hosts


Dr P. Schmid-Hempel, Zoologisches Institut der Universität, Rheinsprung 9, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland.


Bumblebees harbour a wide range of parasitic organisms that attack all stages of their life cycles (reviews in Postner, 1951; Pouvreau, 1973, 1974; Alford, 1975; Kistner, 1982). Among them, conopid flies (Conopidae, Diptera) are particularly interesting because they attack foraging bumblebees which are handling flowers, or even on the wing (Frison, 1926; Cumber, 1949; Postner, 1951; Howell, 1967; Askew, 1971). A single egg is attached to (Frison, 1926; Plath, 1934; Cumber, 1949) or inserted into (DeMeijre, 1904; Howell, 1967) the host's abdomen, where the larva hatches and feeds on haemolymph and internal organs. Within 6–10 days the larva passes through three recognizable stages (Pouvreau, 1974) before the fly pupates in situ within the abdomen. The host bee dies shortly before the parasite pupates (Postner, 1951; Smith, 1966) and the parasite overwinters in its puparium; the adult fly then emerges in early summer (Frison, 1926; Townsend, 1935; Cumber, 1949; Postner, 1951). Conopid flies as parasites of bumblebees are known from all major habitats where the hosts occur (e.g. Kröber, 1939; Smith, 1966). However, the effect of parasitism on distribution and abundance of bumblebees is not known. In this preliminary note we have estimated degrees of infestation and concomitant reduction of life span in affected workers. The results are compared with literature reports on infestation levels in Europe.