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Ethology. 2007 Sep 17;113(10):995-1006.

Thermal Behaviour of Honeybees During Aggressive Interactions.

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1
Institut für Zoologie, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Graz, Austria.

Abstract

We report here on the interrelationship of aggressive behaviour and thermoregulation in honeybees. Body temperature measurements were carried out without behavioural disturbance by infrared thermography. Guard bees, foragers, drones, and queens involved in aggressive interactions were always endothermic, i.e. had their flight muscles activated. Guards made differential use of their endothermic capacity. Mean thorax temperature was 34.2-35.1°C during examination of bees but higher during fights with wasps (37°C) or attack of humans (38.6°C). They usually cooled down when examining bees whereas examinees often heated up during prolonged interceptions (maximum >47°C). Guards neither adjusted their thorax temperature (and thus flight muscle function and agility) to that of examined workers, nor to that of drones, which were 2-7°C warmer. Guards examined cool bees (<33°C) longer than warmer ones, supporting the hypothesis that heating of examinees facilitates odour identification by guards, probably because of vapour pressure increase of semiochemicals with temperature. Guards in the core of aggressive balls clinged to the attacked insects to fix them and kill them by heat (maximum 46.5°C). Bees in the outer cluster layers resembled normal guards behaviourally and thermally. They served as active core insulators by heating up to 43.9°C. While balled wasps were cooler (maximum 42.5°C) than clinging guards balled bees behaved like examinees with maximum temperatures of 46.6°C, which further supports the hypothesis that the examinees heat up to facilitate odour identification.

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