Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bees can learn differences in food's temperature, study finds

Date:
November 19, 2009
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
Biologists have discovered that honeybees can discriminate between food at different temperatures, an ability that may assist bees in locating the warm, sugar-rich nectar or high-protein pollen produced by many flowers.

Honeybees can discriminate between food at different temperatures, researchers have found.
Credit: James Nieh

Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that honeybees can discriminate between food at different temperatures, an ability that may assist bees in locating the warm, sugar-rich nectar or high-protein pollen produced by many flowers.

While other researchers had previously found hints that bees might have the ability to do this, the UCSD biologists provide the first detailed experimental evidence in a paper that will be published in the December 1 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

"We show that honeybees have the ability to associate temperature differences with food," said James Nieh, an associate professor of biology who headed the study. "This information may help guide bees looking for food by allowing them to distinguish which bees are returning to the hive with the highest quality of food."

"Body temperature is seen in terms of its net caloric benefit to the other foragers," said Nieh. "The warmest forager in the nest is the one most likely to be visiting of the sweetest, highest quality food."

Nieh and researchers in his laboratory last year published a paper showing that bumblebees returning to their nests with higher quality pollen were warmer than bees that collected pollen with less protein. That gave the UCSD scientists evidence that bees may change their body temperature to reflect food quality, even for food that they do not consume and that has no direct metabolic impact on the bee.

Knowing that honeybees sense the temperature of returning foragers with their antennae, while these foragers conduct elaborate dances within the hive to communicate food location, Nieh and his colleagues wondered whether bees also sensed the temperature of their food. With the help of two undergraduate students, Tobin Hammer and Curtis Hata, he sought to find out whether bees possessed this ability.

Training bees to stick out their tongues in return for a sugary reward when the team touched a warm surface to a bee's antenna, the researchers found that bees could learn to identify warmth with food. Next, they tested whether the bees could learn to associate temperature differences with a food reward and discovered that this was also the case.

However, while the bees' abilities to recognize the temperature difference increased dramatically as the differences in temperatures rose, the scientists discovered that the bees were better at recognizing warm temperature differences than they were at cold temperature differences. In fact, the bees' abilities were twice as good at recognizing differences of 10 degrees Celsius above room temperature than they were at recognizing differences of minus 10 degrees Celsius below room temperature.

The researchers point out in their paper that this enhanced ability to distinguish warmer temperature differences could be an advantage for gathering nectar in many flowers. During the day, they note, temperatures in the centers of daffodils can be up to 8 degrees Celsius warmer than they are outside the flowers.

"A honeybee's ability to associate positive temperature differences with nectar rewards could also have a natural role inside the nest," the researchers conclude in their paper. "Honeybee foragers can elevate their body temperature after returning from a high-quality food source, and foragers returning from natural nectar or pollen sources increase their thoracic temperature when the colony has need for these resources."

The study was supported by the UC San Diego Opportunities for Research in Behavioral Sciences Program, which is supported by the National Science Foundation. ORBS is a program for high school students and undergraduates that provides research experience for students who are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Diego. The original article was written by Kim McDonald. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - San Diego. "Bees can learn differences in food's temperature, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116193959.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2009, November 19). Bees can learn differences in food's temperature, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116193959.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Bees can learn differences in food's temperature, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116193959.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins