Effects of cage volume and bee density on survival and nutrient intake of honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) under laboratory conditions
Laboratory experiments are vital to exploring the causes of pollinator loss, but for these experiments to be informative, they should attempt to replicate the hive environment and conserve social interactions. It is unclear how honeybee density and group size affect survival and behaviour in the laboratory. We manipulated cage volume (125–1312 ml) and honeybee group size (10–180 bees) and tested the effects on survival and feeding behaviour. Bees were allowed to regulate their intake from two liquid diets with dry ingredient protein: carbohydrate (P:C) ratios of 0:1 and 1:50 (w/w). Intake was consistent across cages, showing that feeding behaviour is largely unaffected by cage conditions. High survival was recorded in cages with a volume of 2.08 ml/bee, which falls within the natural range of 1.9–3.8 ml/bee in nest sites, and in groups of < 60 bees. We suggest that cage volume is more important than group size, and that cage dimensions should be adjusted so that each bee has < 3.0 ml of space.
Keywordscage design laboratory studies nutrient regulation survival honeybee
HJB, SWN and CWWP conceived this research and designed experiments; CRA and CWWP participated in the design and interpretation of the data; HJB performed experiments and analysis; all authors wrote and revised the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This work was funded jointly by a grant from the BBSRC, NERC, the Welcome Trust, Defra, and the Scottish Government under the Insect Pollinators Initiative (BB/I000968/1). Additional support came from the South African National Research Foundation and the University of Pretoria.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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