, Volume 90, Issue 6, pp 256–260 | Cite as

Thorough warm-up before take-off in honey bee swarms

  • Thomas D. SeeleyEmail author
  • Marco Kleinhenz
  • Brigitte Bujok
  • Jürgen Tautz
Short Communication


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.


Flight Muscle Waggle Dancing Thoracic Temperature Thermographic Measurement Thorax Temperature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to the German Research Foundation (SFB 554), the Graduiertenkolleg (GK 200), and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, whose financial support made possible this study. The studies reported here comply with the laws of Germany and the USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas D. Seeley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marco Kleinhenz
    • 2
  • Brigitte Bujok
    • 2
  • Jürgen Tautz
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Lehrstuhl für Verhaltensphysiologie und SoziobiologieBiozentrum der Universität WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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