ARTICLES   


Honeybees' genes key to hive air conditioning




Honeybees' genes key to hive air conditioning

 

•  Emma Young, Sydney

Honeybees can precisely regulate the temperature of their nest – and they do it thanks to genetically determined variations in their individual thermostats. The new research has revealed one of the few known benefits of the high genetic diversity found in honeybee colonies.

Maintaining a nest temperature of between about 32°C and 36°C is vital during spring and summer, when eggs are developing and hatching. “If they don't keep the nest at this temperature, the brood won't develop properly,” says Julia Jones of the University of Sydney, Australia, who led the work.

If the temperature drops too low, the worker bees huddle together around the brood to keep it warm. If it gets too high, they stand at the nest entrance and use their wings to fan out hot air.

The new work shows that bees with different fathers start fanning at slightly different temperatures. This stops sudden colony-wide shifts between warming and cooling behaviors, and keeps the temperature in the nest more constant.

“It's been shown before that honeybees with different genotypes have different thresholds for certain things – for instance, they're attracted to different concentrations of nectar," says Jones. "But this is the first time any benefit has been shown from different behavior thresholds based on genotype in the bees.”

Stored sperm

In each honeybee colony there is one queen, who mates at one point early in her life with between 10 and 30 drones. She then stores this sperm and uses it throughout her life to produce eggs. So in any nest, there are between 10 and 30 lines of workers, each with a different father.

In a series of experiments, Jones's team found, for example, that worker colonies with multiple fathers were much better at maintaining the optimum hive temperature than experimental colonies created so each worker had the same father.

They also found that in genetically diverse colonies, steadily raising the temperature around the hive also caused the proportion of busily fanning workers to increase.

Recent work suggests that some other insects might use genetic diversity to organize tasks in a group. In 2003, William Hughes, also of the University of Sydney , and colleagues, reported high levels of genetic diversity in leaf-cutter ants. They found that individuals with different fathers differed in their likelihood of developing into one of two main "castes" of worker, each of which has separate tasks.

While the has been much more research on bees, “there is some evidence that you can also get the same kind of effect of genetic diversity [in ants], in terms of improving the flexibility of task allocation within the colony,” Hughes says.

Journal reference: Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1096340)


christian louboutin sale adidas jeremy scott jeremy scott outlet abercrombie abercrombie and fitch sale nike air max 1 nike air max pandora bracelet montblanc uk montblanc meisterstuck