Honey bees secret world of heat 'revealed'

Honey bees secret world of heat 'revealed'

A new study has revealed that these heater bees act like living radiators to control the temperature inside their hives and determine which job their young will perform in the colony when mature.  Using new technology, the scientists have found that heater bees, whose body temperatures are considerably higher than other bees in the colony, use their own bodies to provide a unique form of central heating within a hive.

According to them, the heater bees are responsible for maintaining the temperature of the brood nest in a hive, where young bees, known as pupae, are sealed into wax cells while they develop into mature bees. The scientists discovered that the heater bees work to subtly change the temperature of each developing pupae by around a degree and this small change determines what kind of honey bee it will become, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

Those kept at 35 degrees C turn into the intelligent forager bees that leave the nest in search of nectar. Those kept at 34 degrees C emerge as "house keeper" bees that never leave the nest, conducting chores such as feeding the larvae and cleaning the nest.

"Their (heater bees) body temperature can reach up to 44 degrees centigrade. In theory they should cook themselves at that temperature, but somehow they are able to withstand this high temperature. "By creeping into empty cells, one heater bee can transmit heat to 70 pupae around them. It is a central heating system for the colony.

"The bees are controlling the environment they live in to make sure they can fill a need within the colony. Each bee in a colony performs a different profession – there are guard bees, nest building bees, brood caretaking bee, queen care- taking bee and forager bees.

"By carefully regulating the temperature of each pupae, they change the way it develops and the likelihood of the role it will fulfill when it emerges as an adult," Prof Jürgen Tautz, head of the bee group at Würzburg University in Germany, who led the study, said. The findings will be revealed later this month in a new 'BBC' series 'Richard Hammond's 'Invisible World', where technology is used to give a glimpse into previously unseen worlds.

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