HAVE THERMOSTATS, CAN REGULATE TEMPERATURE IN HIVES
are intriguing. Worker bees, who perform all the hive-keeping chores,
are female. Males, also known as drones, have only one function: to
mate with the queen.
study in Australia, where European honeybees have been introduced (as
they have here), indicates that how hive temperature is controlled depends
on whether the queen mates with only one male or with several.
insects, honeybees are considered a super-organism, with each individual
operating in the best interest of the hive. Self-interest does not exist
in a bee colony. Members of the colony operate in unison to keep the
temperature in the hive as close to 95 degrees as possible. To cool
the hive in hot weather, they wave their wings, creating a misting effect
with water they bring into the hive.
weather, they warm the hive by generating heat from body muscles. As
environmental temperatures may rise or fall rapidly, depending on local
weather conditions, honeybees must be in a constant state of readiness
to act in unison to raise or lower hive temperature. Honeybees thermoregulate
not for their own comfort but for the developing brood that are highly
sensitive to fluctuating temperatures.
at the University of Sydney conducted a study that was an impressive
mix of behavioral observations and DNA analyses. They demonstrated that
a queens normal choice to mate with not just one drone
but several is in the best interest of the hive. Experiments
were conducted on pairs of hives having the same number of bees but
differing genetically. One hive consisted of worker bees that were the
offspring of a single queen and a single drone. The behavior of this
hive, with uniform genetic parentage, was compared to that of a normal
hive in which the queen has had multiple mates so that the workers are
of mixed genetic heritage.
found that in both colonies worker bees maintained the hive at the preferred
temperature. However, the temperature over time in the mixed genetic
hive remained relatively invariable compared to the other hive. The
uniformly genetic individuals eventually got the hive to the proper
temperature, but their response time lagged behind that of the genetically
for the differing responses is fascinating. Bees vary from individual
to individual in their internal thermostats just like people.
We see this frequently in offices, theaters, classrooms any place
where people congregate. Some will think the room is too cold; others
will think its too hot; some lucky souls will think its
just right. Bees are apparently the same way. Some bees will find the
hive too hot, some too cold, and so on, and they will act to regulate
the temperature. Not for their own comfort but for the welfare of the
are genetically similar, they are more likely to respond to a need to
begin regulating the thermostat of the hive at the same
temperature. This means they all begin to operate at about the same
time. In the genetically diverse hive, individuals respond at different
temperature levels. Some begin the cooling process of fanning the hive
on a hot day at slightly lower temperatures than other individuals that
pick up the call to duty a little later. The temperature of a genetically
diverse hive is kept at a more uniform level because individual bees
are responding across a wider gradient of temperatures.
the relationship between genetics and behavior, the researchers did
DNA tests in a mixed genetic hive. They removed some workers that began
fanning at one temperature and some that began fanning at other temperatures.
Sure enough, individuals that began fanning at a given temperature were
more likely to have the same father than those fanning at other temperatures.
findings are as captivating as the insects themselves, and when you
consider the scientific complexity involved in conducting such a study,
the scientists are as impressive as the bees.
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