Free access
Volume 35, Number 3, May-June 2004
Page(s) 249 - 263
Apidologie 35 (2004) 249-263
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2004019

Inner nest homeostasis in a changing environment with special emphasis on honey bee brood nursing and pollen supply

Thomas Schmickl and Karl Crailsheim

Department for Zoology, Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, 8010 Graz, Austria
(Received 29 July 2003; revised 5 November 2003; accepted 9 January 2004)

Abstract - To reproduce successfully, a honey bee colony has to rear brood efficiently. This requires a fecund queen and depends on the coordinated activities of workers in brood care, in foraging, and in maintaining inner nest homeostasis. Maintaining homeostasis involves thermal regulation of the brood area and providing a steady supply of nutrients, which requires building food reserves during favorable weather so that the brood can be well fed even during times of low nutritional influx. The workforce of adult bees is appropriately divided among the required tasks, and the wax comb itself is spatially organized in a way that saves energy and supports brood nursing. The ability to achieve this homeostasis results from a set of individual behaviors and communication processes performed in parallel by thousands of bees. In this review, we discuss these proximate individual mechanisms that lead to the precise regulation of the complex system that is a honey bee society.

Key words: Apis mellifera / homeostasis / nursing / pollen / self-organization

Corresponding author: Karl Crailsheim

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004