, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 65-76

Colonial thermoregulation in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

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Summary

  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 (T in) increased.

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

  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. 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. 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. 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. 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.