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Patterns of endothermy in bumblebee queens, drones and workers


  1. 1.

    The thoracic temperatures (TTh) of captiveBombus edwardsii queens and drones from the current year approached ambient temperatures (TA) at night, but warm-up was frequent throughout the day.

  2. 2.

    ABombus vosnesenskii queen which had initiated nest building maintained TTh nearly continuously between 37.4 and 38.8 °C at night and in the daytime. On the other hand, the TTh of an overwintered queen which was not “broody” was close to TA (about 22 °C), except when the bee walked from the nest box and fed on sugar syrup, when TTh approached 40 °C.

  3. 3.

    Workers and queens applied themselves closely to cocoons and heated them by body contact. The temperature of the cocoons declined when the attending workers depleted the honey in the nest.

  4. 4.

    Bees achieved a large difference between TTh and TA while being stationary when no wing movements were visible. Thoracic temperature subsequently declined when they were made to fly in place while suspended from the thread-like thermocouple leads.

  5. 5.

    Workers ofB. edwardsii maintained a mean TTh of 37.3 °C while foraging for nectar fromArctostaphylos otayensis at dawn when there was frost on the ground and TA near the flowers was 2 to 3 °C.

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I thank Drs. William W. Allen, Eric B. Edney and Werner J. Loher for generously making available items of equipment and supplies. I am also grateful to Dr. Robbin W. Thorp for providing a colony ofB. edwardsii.

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Heinrich, B. Patterns of endothermy in bumblebee queens, drones and workers. J. Comp. Physiol. 77, 65–79 (1972).

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  • Sugar
  • Ambient Temperature
  • Drone
  • Nest Building
  • Body Contact