, Volume 163, Issue 5, pp 565-584

Busy bees need rest, too

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Summary

  1. The behaviour of isolated individual forager honeybees during the night has been investigated with a variety of experimental methods. Prolonged rest in these diurnal insects is accompanied by: reduced muscle tone (Figs. 1, 6, 10–12), decreased motility (Figs. 2, 3, Table 1), lowered body temperature (Figs. 7, 8) and raised reaction threshold (Fig. 9). These phenomena strongly resemble four characteristic features of sleep in humans, mammals and birds. It is thus very likely that the profound rest which forager bees experience at night is sleep. This assumption is further supported by the results of previous investigations of visual interneurones in the bee.

  2. The antennae of sleeping bees manifest characteristic postural constellations (Fig. 6). High reaction thresholds are associated with particular antennal positions.

  3. The total sleep time (duration of antennal immobility plus duration of small antennal movements) in 24 h for two bees was 7.6 h and 4.9 h (Table 1).

  4. Bees which rest in a hive at night also display phenomena which have been encountered during the laboratory investigations.

  5. Sleep in mammals is an active, controlled process; the same seems to be true of sleep in honeybees (Figs. 3, 4). Unlike mammals, bees experience their deepest sleep towards the end of the sleep phase (Figs. 3, 9, 10, 12).

Dedicated to Prof. Dr. D. Burkhardt on the occasion of his 60th birthday