The dynamics of sleep-like behaviour in honey bees

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2003 Aug;189(8):599-607. doi: 10.1007/s00359-003-0436-9. Epub 2003 Jul 12.


At night, honey bees pass through a physiological state that is similar to mammalian sleep. Like sleep in mammals, sleep-like behaviour in honey bees is an active process. This is expressed most clearly in these insects by spontaneous antennal movements which appear at irregular intervals throughout the night and interrupt episodes of antennal immobility. Here we present a newly developed video technique for the continuous recording of the position and movements of the bee's antennae. The same technique was used to record head inclination and ventilatory movements. Despite the constancy of the ambient temperature, the magnitudes of antennae-related parameters, as well as head inclination and ventilatory cycle duration, displayed dynamic unimodal time-courses which exhibited a high degree of temporal covariance. The similarity between these time-courses and the nightly time-course of the reaction threshold for a sensory stimulus, investigated previously, indicates that, in honey bees, deepest "sleep" and least ventilatory activity occur at the same time (in the 7th hour of the rest phase).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Darkness
  • Head / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Periodicity
  • Polysomnography / instrumentation
  • Polysomnography / methods*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology
  • Sense Organs / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Video Recording / instrumentation
  • Video Recording / methods*