Thursday, March 3, 2016

What's All the Buzz About?

 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)


  1. I've heard so much about honey bees lately. I think I read somewhere that they wanted to put honey bee farms in major cities on rooftops in order to cultivate a better environment. They are so important to our world, it was very interesting to read how they act as a super organism and work together to help each other to grow their colonies.

    Dasha Agoulnik (1)

    1. I heard about the rooftop hives too. I'm excited to see what comes about with that initiative. When I was researching the rooftop hives I read a lot of the reviews on the honey that the bees produced being better than the honey from hives on a farm. They said that because the bees only have a small variety of flowers to forage from the honey ended up being from one kind of flowers nectar, making it more pure.

      -Emily Mueller Group (2)

  2. I find honey bees extremely interesting because of the way the hive as a whole works together as if it were a single organism. Many of the species we are most familiar with are driven to reproduce in order to preserve their own genes. The bees are different, however, because not all of them are capable of reproducing. Instead, they work to preserve the genes of the hive by protecting the queen bee.

    Bradley Sarasin (Group 1)

    1. Bees are so interesting because of their cohesive hive behavior. I find reproduction in honey bees so cool. Only the queen bee can lay fertilized eggs that produce female worker bees, this carries on her genes in the hive. Worker bees, the females in the hive can lay eggs but the eggs are not fertilized and they hatch into drones, the males of the hive. Which is cool to think about because drones don't have Fathers but they have Grandpas.

      -Emily Mueller (Group 2)

  3. It's amazing how bees work together as a group and each one knows his job. They travel long distances looking for nectar and still remember the way to go back home. It is also incredible how at sunset they all come back home as if airplanes are landing.

    Mohammed Saleh

  4. This was a very interesting article! It's weird to think that bees individually are cold blooded ectotherms but when they come together as a colony they are warm blooded and can regulate their hives temperature. While really scary to be up close and personal to a bee hive their sense of togetherness and ability to work as one to create honey is actually amazing to think about.

    Stephanie Aboody

  5. Even though I freak out anytime a bee gets too close to me I still find them to be very interesting. I think it's amazing how they are able to work so well in a group. They are the hardest working creatures on the planet. Bees are very beneficial to the environment. I read that bees are responsible for helping produce $19 billion worth of agricultural crops in the United States.

    Rebecca Thomas

  6. Anytime I learn new information about bees I am always so intrigued. They are such an interesting insect and the instinctual patterns they have are unlike that of any other animal. I am curious as to whether other flying insects such as wasps or bumble bees have these same kind of patterns or if it is specific to this type of honey bee.

    Ashley Geary (1)

  7. Bees prove time and again to be such intricate and interesting organisms. Every aspect of their life, from each individual bee, to the hive collectively, has such a precise specification for everything to function properly. I didn't know that honey bees had to be at a certain temperature in order to fly and that they can specifically control the temperature of the hive themselves!

    Erina Taradai (Group 3)