Conditions experienced early in development can affect the future
performance of individuals and populations. Demographic theories predict
persistent population impacts of past resources, but few studies have
experimentally tested such carry-over effects across generations or
cohorts. We used bumble bees to test whether resource timing had
persistent effects on within-colony dynamics over sequential cohorts of
workers. We simulated a resource pulse for field colonies either early
or late in colony development and estimated colony growth rates during
pulse- and non-pulse periods. During periods when resources were not
supplemented, early-pulse colonies grew faster than late-pulse colonies;
early-pulse colonies grew larger as a result. These results reveal
persistent effects of past resources on current growth and support the
importance of transient dynamics in natural ecological systems.
Early-pulse colonies also produced more queen offspring, highlighting
the critical nature of resource timing for population, as well as
colony, dynamics of a key pollinator.