Impacts of seasonality and parasitism on honey bee population dynamics

Jun Chen, Jordy O.Rodriguez Rincon, Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, Jennifer Fewell, Jon Harrison, Yun Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The honeybee plays an extremely important role in ecosystem stability and diversity and in the production of bee pollinated crops. Honey bees and other pollinators are under threat from the combined effects of nutritional stress, parasitism, pesticides, and climate change that impact the timing, duration, and variability of seasonal events. To understand how parasitism and seasonality influence honey bee colonies separately and interactively, we developed a non-autonomous nonlinear honeybee-parasite interaction differential equation model that incorporates seasonality into the egg-laying rate of the queen. Our theoretical results show that parasitism negatively impacts the honey bee population either by decreasing colony size or destabilizing population dynamics through supercritical or subcritical Hopf-bifurcations depending on conditions. Our bifurcation analysis and simulations suggest that seasonality alone may have positive or negative impacts on the survival of honey bee colonies. More specifically, our study indicates that (1) the timing of the maximum egg-laying rate seems to determine when seasonality has positive or negative impacts; and (2) when the period of seasonality is large it can lead to the colony collapsing. Our study further suggests that the synergistic influences of parasitism and seasonality can lead to complicated dynamics that may positively and negatively impact the honey bee colony’s survival. Our work partially uncovers the intrinsic effects of climate change and parasites, which potentially provide essential insights into how best to maintain or improve a honey bee colony’s health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalJournal of mathematical biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Honey bees
  • Parasitism
  • Seasonality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


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