Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 165, Issue 6, pp 433–444

Thermal behavior of round and wagtail dancing honeybees

  • A. Stabentheiner
  • H. Kovac
  • K. Hagmüller
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/BF00261297

Cite this article as:
Stabentheiner, A., Kovac, H. & Hagmüller, K. J Comp Physiol B (1995) 165: 433. doi:10.1007/BF00261297


The thermal behavior of round and wagtail dancing honeybees (Apis mellifera carnica) gathering sucrose solutions of concentrations between 0.5 and 2 mol·l-1 was investigated under field conditions by infrared thermography (30–506 m flight distance). During the stay inside the hive thoracic surface temperature ranged from 31.4 to 43.9 °C. In both round and wagtail dancing honeybees the concentration of sucrose in the food influenced dancing temperature in a non-linear way. Average dancing temperature was 37.9 °C in foragers gathering a 0.5 mol·l-1 sucrose solution, 40.1°C with a 1 mol·l-1, 40.6°C with a 1.5 mol·l-1 and 40.7°C with a 2 mol·l-1 solution. The variability of thoracic temperature was highest with the 0.5 mol·l-1 and lowest with the 1.5 and 2 mol·l-1 concentrations. Thoracic temperatures during trophallactic contact with hive bees were similar to dancing temperature at 1.5 mol·l-1 but lower at the other concentrations. During periods of distribution of food to hive bees (trophallactic contact >2.5s) the dancers' thorax cooled down by more than 0.5°C considerably more frequently with the 0.5 mol·l-1 solution (65% of cases) than with the 1.5 mol·l-1 solution (26%). By contrast, heating the thorax up by more than 0.5°C was infrequent with the 0.5 mol·l-1 solution (2%) but occurred at a maximum rate of 26% with the 1.5 mol·l-1 solution. Bees gathering the 1 or 2 mol·l-1 solutions showed intermediate behavior. Linear model analysis showed that at higher concentrations the dancers compensated better for variations of hive air temperature: per 1 °C increase of hive temperature dancing temperature increased by 0.34, 0.22, 0.12, and 0.13 °C with 0.5, 1, 1.5, and 2 mol·l-1 sucrose solutions, respectively. The results furnish evidence that dancing honeybees follow a strategy of “selective heterothermy” by tuning their thermal behavior to the needs of the behavior performed at the moment. Thoracic temperature is regulated to a high level and more accurately when fast exploitation of profitable food sources is recommended. Thoracic temperature is lowered when the ratio of gain to costs of foraging becomes more unfavorable.

Key words

DancingThermal behaviorThermoregulationThermographyHoneybee, Apis mellifera



standard deviation


SD around regression line


relative humidity at feeding station


air temperature at feeding station


air temperature near the dancers


Thoracic surface temperatures




trophallactic contact (distribution of food)




mean temperature of total stay in the hive

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Stabentheiner
    • 1
  • H. Kovac
    • 1
  • K. Hagmüller
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für ZoologieKarl-Franzens-Universität GrazGrazAustria