, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 734–746 | Cite as

Effects of cage volume and bee density on survival and nutrient intake of honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) under laboratory conditions

  • Henrika Jacomina BosuaEmail author
  • Susan Wendy Nicolson
  • Catherine Ruth Archer
  • Christian Walter Werner Pirk
Review article


Laboratory experiments are vital to exploring the causes of pollinator loss, but for these experiments to be informative, they should attempt to replicate the hive environment and conserve social interactions. It is unclear how honeybee density and group size affect survival and behaviour in the laboratory. We manipulated cage volume (125–1312 ml) and honeybee group size (10–180 bees) and tested the effects on survival and feeding behaviour. Bees were allowed to regulate their intake from two liquid diets with dry ingredient protein: carbohydrate (P:C) ratios of 0:1 and 1:50 (w/w). Intake was consistent across cages, showing that feeding behaviour is largely unaffected by cage conditions. High survival was recorded in cages with a volume of 2.08 ml/bee, which falls within the natural range of 1.9–3.8 ml/bee in nest sites, and in groups of < 60 bees. We suggest that cage volume is more important than group size, and that cage dimensions should be adjusted so that each bee has < 3.0 ml of space.


cage design laboratory studies nutrient regulation survival honeybee 


Author contributions

HJB, SWN and CWWP conceived this research and designed experiments; CRA and CWWP participated in the design and interpretation of the data; HJB performed experiments and analysis; all authors wrote and revised the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding information

This work was funded jointly by a grant from the BBSRC, NERC, the Welcome Trust, Defra, and the Scottish Government under the Insect Pollinators Initiative (BB/I000968/1). Additional support came from the South African National Research Foundation and the University of Pretoria.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henrika Jacomina Bosua
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan Wendy Nicolson
    • 1
  • Catherine Ruth Archer
    • 2
  • Christian Walter Werner Pirk
    • 1
  1. 1.Social Insects Research Group, Department of Zoology and EntomologyUniversity of PretoriaHatfieldSouth Africa
  2. 2.College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ExeterCornwallUK

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