Honey bees have the ability to thermoregulate as a colony. During weather fluctuations they can maintain the hives temperature to be comfortable. When it is hot outside, the honey bees can keep the nest cool. When it is cold outside, the honey bees can keep their colony warm. Thermoregulation allows for honey bees, specifically the cavity-nesting honey bees, like the Apis mellifera, to live in a variety of environments.
The Apis mellifera, the honey bee species that bee keepers keep prefer to nest in cavities. Nesting in cavities allows for the honey bees to inhabit climates that open-nesting bees cannot. With the closed cavity lifestyle, honey bees thermoregulate is crucial to their colony survival.
What is amazing about this behavior is that as an individual a honey bee is a cold blooded insect, known as an ectotherm; but as a colony honey bees are warm blooded, known as endotherms. Cold blooded refers to an organism that regulates its temperature through the outside temperatures. Warm blooded refers to the fact that the organism can control its temperature to be different from that of its surrounding environment. This thermoregulation has supported the ecological success of the honey bee.
Honey bees are found in a variety of environments ranging in latitudes. With the changing latitudes, ways to warm the nest were necessary for a couple reasons. One reason the hive needs to remain a certain temperature is because of their brood. Brood rearing temperature is optimal at around 34.5 degrees Celsius, if there are any inconsistencies in the temperature it could lead to deformed wings and mouth parts, as well as shortened life-span and abnormal behaviors. Another reason hive warming is crucial is because by keeping the hive warm allows for the bees to be ready for flight whenever necessary. Being cold blooded organisms, bees must be a certain temperature before they are able to fly. If the bees kept a cold hive, the bees would have trouble foraging for food and defending the hive from predators. Lastly, by being able to regulate temperature regardless of the outside temperature, honey bees can survive and maintain the hive during cold winters.
Honey bees are able to heat the hive in two different ways: passive thermoregulation and active thermoregulation. Passive thermoregulations is due to the structure of the nest. For example bees select optimal nesting sites, ones that have internal air flow, small entrances that are toward the bottom, have insulated walls, and that are elevated around 10 feet off the ground. These features all promote air flow and proper placement of the brood. active thermoregulation is when the bees perform a certain behavior that allow for them to change the temperature. When bees are warm they use their warm body as a technique to warm the brood.
Honey bees are interesting to study because there are not many insects that act as a super organism. These bees are working in a group to support the hive. These bees are all working for each other and have the same goal of helping the colony.
-Emily Mueller (Group2)