Thorough warm-up before take-off in honey bee swarms
In a bivouacked swarm of honey bees, most individuals are quiescent while a small minority (the scouts) are active in choosing the swarm's future nest site. This study explores the way in which the members of a swarm warm their flight muscles for take-off when the swarm eventually decamps. An infrared camera was used to measure the thoracic (flight muscle) temperatures of individual bees on the surface of a swarm cluster. These are generally the coolest bees in a swarm. The warming of the surface-layer bees occurred mainly in the last 10 min before take-off. By the time a take-off began, 100% of the bees had their flight muscles heated to at least 35°C, which is sufficient to support rapid flight. Take-offs began only a few seconds after all the surface-layer bees had their flight muscles warmed to at least 35°C, but exactly how take-offs are triggered remains a mystery.