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Thermochim Acta. 2012 Apr 20;534:77-86.

Assessing honeybee and wasp thermoregulation and energetics-New insights by combination of flow-through respirometry with infrared thermography.

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Institut für Zoologie, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, A-8010 Graz, Austria.


Endothermic insects like honeybees and some wasps have to cope with an enormous heat loss during foraging because of their small body size in comparison to endotherms like mammals and birds. The enormous costs of thermoregulation call for optimisation. Honeybees and wasps differ in their critical thermal maximum, which enables the bees to kill the wasps by heat. We here demonstrate the benefits of a combined use of body temperature measurement with infrared thermography, and respiratory measurements of energy turnover (O(2) consumption or CO(2) production via flow-through respirometry) to answer questions of insect ecophysiological research, and we describe calibrations to receive accurate results.To assess the question of what foraging honeybees optimise, their body temperature was compared with their energy turnover. Honeybees foraging from an artificial flower with unlimited sucrose flow increased body surface temperature and energy turnover with profitability of foraging (sucrose content of the food; 0.5 or 1.5 mol/L). Costs of thermoregulation, however, were rather independent of ambient temperature (13-30 °C). External heat gain by solar radiation was used to increase body temperature. This optimised foraging energetics by increasing suction speed.In determinations of insect respiratory critical thermal limits, the combined use of respiratory measurements and thermography made possible a more conclusive interpretation of respiratory traces.

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