Send to

Choose Destination
J Theor Biol. 2012 Feb 21;295:168-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.11.007. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Flow currents and ventilation in Langstroth beehives due to brood thermoregulation efforts of honeybees.

Author information

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


Beekeepers universally agree that ensuring sufficient ventilation is vital for sustaining a thriving, healthy honeybee colony. Despite this fact, surprisingly little is known about the ventilation and flow patterns in bee hives. We take a first step towards developing a model-based approach that uses computational fluid dynamics to simulate natural ventilation flow inside a standard Langstroth beehive. A 3-D model of a Langstroth beehive with one brood chamber and one honey super was constructed and inside it the honeybee colony was distributed among different clusters each occupying the different bee-spaces between frames in the brood chamber. For the purpose of modeling, each honeybee cluster was treated as an air-saturated porous medium with constant porosity. Heat and mass transfer interactions of the honeybees with the air, the outcome of metabolism, were captured in the porous medium model as source and sink terms appearing in the governing equations of fluid dynamics. The temperature of the brood that results from the thermoregulation efforts of the colony is applied as a boundary condition for the governing equations. The governing equations for heat, mass transport and fluid flow were solved using Fluent(©), a commercially available CFD program. The results from the simulations indicate that (a) both heat and mass transfer resulting from honeybee metabolism play a vital role in determining the structure of the flow inside the beehive and mass transfer cannot be neglected, (b) at low ambient temperatures, the nonuniform temperature profile on comb surfaces that results from brood incubation enhances flow through the honeybee cluster which removes much of the carbon-dioxide produced by the cluster resulting in lower carbon-dioxide concentration next to the brood, (c) increasing ambient (outside) air temperature causes ventilation flow rate to drop resulting in weaker flow inside the beehive. Flow visualization indicates that at low ambient air temperatures the flow inside the beehive has an interesting 3-D structure with the presence of large recirculating vortices occupying the space between honey super frames above the honeybee clusters in the brood chamber and the structure and strength of the flow inside and around the honeybee clusters changes as we increase the ambient air temperature outside the beehive.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center