Natures wonders: honey bee air conditioning (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Friday, July 22, 2016, 00:16 (1240 days ago) @ David Turell

They send o=out water foraging bees to bring back water, which feeds thirst and then sloshed around the hive, evaporates and cools:

"Honeybees have a few strategies for chilling out: some fan the nest, others leave the hive to increase air flow, and a few zip off looking for ponds or puddles. These “water collector” bees fill their bellies with water, fly back home, then regurgitate the liquid. Other bees slurp it up and spit it out around the hive, allowing the colony to cool as the water evaporates.

"It was suspected that a steady supply of water is important during extreme heat, says Thomas Seeley at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. To confirm that, Seeley and his colleagues exposed two hives — each containing about 3000 honeybees — to heat lamps in the lab.

"When the bees didn't have access to water, the colonies shot up to about 43°C, a hazardously high temperature: above 40°C, bee larvae can dehydrate and die. When the researchers restored water access, the hives cooled below the lethal threshold.

“'[Water] is not just icing on the cake, it's critical for their cooling,” says Seeley. “Without that, they cannot really control the temperature in the nest on hot days.”

"But the researchers weren't sure how the water collectors knew when more liquid was needed. To find out, they turned up the heat and watched how individual bees responded.

"Once the hive ran out of water, the bees that stay home and dole out provisions begged for more by touching their tongues to the mouths of the water collectors, entreating them to spew up more liquid. These solicitations were almost non-existent under cooler conditions.

"The foraging bees largely ceased their excursions once their sisters stopped pleading for more water — but not before they stockpiled some water their hive-mates didn't spread around, Seeley says.

"After a day enduring hot and dry conditions, several dozen bees — both water collectors and others — transformed themselves into living storage tanks, bulging with water stowed in an expandable region of their gut. The bees also stashed some water in honeycomb cells, but, because water can easily evaporate from the comb, “water-bottle bees” may be a more efficient storage method, says Seeley.


"We just don't know much about how bees handle water,” she says. “It's been a bit of a gap.”

"The exciting thing about this study is that it clarifies how individual bees are stimulated to respond to a colony-wide need, says James Nieh at the University of California San Diego."

Comment: Is this a learned instinct? Seems likely.

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