Journal of comparative physiology

, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 65–76

Colonial thermoregulation in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

  • Fredi Kronenberg
  • H. Craig Heller

DOI: 10.1007/BF00688889

Cite this article as:
Kronenberg, F. & Heller, H.C. Journal of Comparative Physiology B (1982) 148: 65. doi:10.1007/BF00688889


  1. 1.

    Populations of honey bees held at a constant temperature for 24–48 h exhibited diurnal rhythms of metabolic rate (MR) and locomotor activity with peaks during the day and lows at night. The amplitude of the metabolic rhythm decreased as air temperature (Tin) increased.

  2. 2.

    Thermoregulatory behaviors including clustering and fanning occurred in cycles which correlated with the diurnal rhythms of MR and activity.

  3. 3.

    At cold air temperature (10°C), a high rate of thermoregulatory heat production was independent of visible activity, and conversely, at high air temperatures (40°C), MR was low despite increased locomotor activity.

  4. 4.

    Decreasing air temperature from 30 to 10°C day and night resulted in clustering, and metabolic increases proportional to the degree of cooling. Raising air temperature from 30 to 40°C day and night caused a drop in metabolic rate, an increase in locomotor activity, and fanning.

  5. 5.

    Day/night differences in thermoregulatory responses to cooling included a nocturnal reduction of the threshold air temperature for thermogenesis and a decrease in the slopes of the metabolic response curves below this threshold. At 10°C there was more clustering at night than during the day.

  6. 6.

    The presence of capped brood moderates these responses in a quantitative manner, as indicated by the greater metabolic rate when the bee/brood ratio is small and the greater amount of clustering on brood comb than on broodless comb.

  7. 7.

    At cold air temperatures (10°C), capped brood temperature is maintained above 30°C through the combined effects of clustering and thermogenesis. The metabolic responses are inversely correlated with the degree of clustering.




metabolic rate


air temperature


environmental chamber temperature


air temperature in isolated bee chamber


thoracic temperature


temperature beneath surface of capped brood


temperature near bottom of uncapped larval cell


honey temperature


temperature of heat exchange plate

Tmid air

air temperature 0.5–1.0 cm above comb surface at center of frame


constant light


natural light/dark cycle


low activity


moderate activity


high activity

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fredi Kronenberg
    • 1
  • H. Craig Heller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of Rehabilitation MedicineColumbia University, College of Physicians and SurgeonsNew YorkUSA