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PLoS One. 2016 Feb 16;11(2):e0148740. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0148740. eCollection 2016.

Drone and Worker Brood Microclimates Are Regulated Differentially in Honey Bees, Apis mellifera.

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Jilin Key Laboratory of Animal Resource Conservation and Utilization, School of Life Sciences, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, Jilin Province, China.
Jilin Institute of Apicultural Research, Jilin, Jilin Province, China.
Department of Entomology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States of America.
Center for Statistical Training and Consulting, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States of America.



Honey bee (Apis mellifera) drones and workers show differences in morphology, physiology, and behavior. Because the functions of drones are more related to colony reproduction, and those of workers relate to both survival and reproduction, we hypothesize that the microclimate for worker brood is more precisely regulated than that of drone brood.


We assessed temperature and relative humidity (RH) inside honey bee colonies for both drone and worker brood throughout the three-stage development period, using digital HOBO® Data Loggers. The major findings of this study are that 1) both drone and worker castes show the highest temperature for eggs, followed by larvae and then pupae; 2) temperature in drones are maintained at higher precision (smaller variance) in drone eggs and larvae, but at a lower precision in pupae than the corresponding stages of workers; 3) RH regulation showed higher variance in drone than workers across all brood stages; and 4) RH regulation seems largely due to regulation by workers, as the contribution from empty honey combs are much smaller compared to that from adult workers.


We conclude that honey bee colonies maintain both temperature and humidity actively; that the microclimate for sealed drone brood is less precisely regulated than worker brood; and that combs with honey contribute very little to the increase of RH in honey bee colonies. These findings increase our understanding of microclimate regulation in honey bees and may have implications for beekeeping practices.

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