The energetics and thermoregulation of water collecting honeybees

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2018 Oct;204(9-10):783-790. doi: 10.1007/s00359-018-1278-9. Epub 2018 Aug 6.


Honeybees need water for different purposes, to maintain the osmotic homeostasis in adults as well as to dilute stored honey and prepare liquid food for the brood. Water is also used for cooling of the hive. Foraging in endothermic insects is energy-intensive and the question arises how much energy bees invest in a resource without any metabolically usable energy. We investigated the energy demand of water collecting bees under natural conditions. The thermoregulation and energetic effort was measured simultaneously in a broad range of experimental ambient temperatures (Ta = 12-40 °C). The thorax temperature as well as the energetic turnover showed a great variability. The mean Tthorax was ranging from ~ 35.7 °C at 12 °C to nearly 42.5 °C at 40 °C. The energy turnover calculated from CO2-release was highest at a Ta of 20 °C with about 60 mW and lowest at 40 °C with about 22 mW per bee. The total costs during collection decreased from 10.4 J at 12 °C to 0.5 J at 40 °C. The energetic effort of the water collectors was comparable with that of 0.5 M sucrose foraging bees. Our investigation strongly supports the hypothesis that the bees' motivational status determines the energetic performance during foraging.

Keywords: Collecting; Energetics; Honeybee; Thermoregulation; Water.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / metabolism
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Ecosystem
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Honey
  • Motivation
  • Osmoregulation
  • Seasons
  • Temperature
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Water