Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 158, Issue 6, pp 739–749

Flight of the honey bee

IV. Respiratory quotients and metabolic rates during sitting, walking and flying
  • U. Rothe
  • W. Nachtigall

DOI: 10.1007/BF00693012

Cite this article as:
Rothe, U. & Nachtigall, W. J Comp Physiol B (1989) 158: 739. doi:10.1007/BF00693012


Using manometric and gas analytical methods oxygen consumption\(\dot V_{O_2 }\), carbon dioxide production\(\dot V_{CO_2 }\), respiratory quotientRQ, (Fig. 1A-C) and thorax surface temperature difference ΔTts (Fig. 3) were determined in single bees. The animals were either sitting in respiratory chambers or were suspended by the scutum, in which case they were resting, ‘walking’ (turning a small polystyrene ball) or flying in a closed miniature wind tunnel.

During resting (sitting in Warburg vessels) at an ambient temperatureTa=10°C,RQ was 1.01±0.2 (n=905) with variations due to method (Fig. 1D, E).RQ values during walking were determined in single cases. In no case were they significantly different from 1.00. After the first 10 min of flight meanRQ was 1.00±0.04. It was significantly smaller than 1.00 (RQ=0.97) only during the last 5% of long-time flights (mean flight duration 58.8±28.8 min). With the exception of near-exhaustion conditions no signs of fuels other than carbohydrates were found.

Metabolic ratePm was 19.71±21.38 mW g−1 during ‘resting’ at 20°C≤Ta≤30°C indicating that many resting bees actively thermoregulate at higherTa. After excluding bees which were actively thermoregulating, by an approximationPm was 5.65±2.44 mW g−1 at 20°C≤Ta≤30°C. ‘True resting metabolic rate’ for sitting bees atTa=10°C was 1.31±0.53 mW g−1 (Fig. 2A, B).

A significant negative correlation was found between relative (specific) oxygen consumption\(\dot V_{O_2 }\)rel and body massMb at 85 mg≤Mb≤150 mg.

At 0°C≤Tts≤16.5°C a significant (α-0.01) positive correlation was found between\(\dot V_{O_2 }\) and ΔTts in single resting bees:\(\dot V_{O_2 }\) ΔTTs+0.099, or betweenPm and ΔTts:Pm=1.343 ΔTts+0.581 (Fig. 3D)\(\dot V_{O_2 }\) in ml h−1,Pm in mW,T in °C).

During walking (duration 13.15±5.71 min,n=13) at 12.5°C≤Ta≤21°C a stable ΔTts of 11.41±3.37°C, corresponding to 167 mW g−1, was reached for 80 to 90% of the walking time (Fig. 4B).

During wind tunnel flights of tethered animals the minimal metabolic power measured in exhaustion experiments was 240 mW g−1. Calculation of factors of increase inPm is of limited value in poikilotherms, in which true resting conditions are not exactly defined.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • U. Rothe
    • 1
  • W. Nachtigall
    • 1
  1. 1.Arbeitsgruppe Nachtigall, Zoologisches InstitutUniversität des SaarlandesSaarbrückenGermany