New study reveals roles, communication among social insects at time of crisis
Helga R. Heilmann
When a honeybee colony gets hot and bothered, the crisis sets tongues wagging. Middle-aged bees stick their tongues into the mouths of their elders, launching these special drinker bees to go collect water. That’s just one detail uncovered during a new study of how a colony superorganism cools in hot weather.
Using lightbulbs to make heat waves in beehives, researchers have traced how honeybees communicate about collecting water and work together in deploying it as air-conditioning. The tests show just how important water is for protecting a colony from overheating, Thomas Seeley of Cornell University and his colleagues report online July 20 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Water collection is an aspect of bee biology that we know little about, says insect physiologist Sue Nicolson of the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Collecting pollen and nectar have