Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bees Are So Cool, Er, I mean Hot

Well, it breaks my heart to have to say this out loud but, old timers don't know everything.
I am finding it is tricky to discern what is true about keeping bees, what is outdated information, and what is just incorrect extrapolation, even if it is done by an "expert".

After examining my Hive #1 brood combs and fretting about the empty cells sprinkled around between capped cells, I read an article in the Times about "Heater Bees". There is new information out now that the cells left empty between brood cells is desirable, not the sign of a failing Queen.

Just click for a close up and personal view of the brood comb in the Women's Honey collective.
All the information in my books and on the web show photos of brood frames with empty cells as examples of poor laying patterns by the Queen. They insist this is the sign of needing a new Queen.

Now it seems all this information is incorrect.

In a study using heat sensing cameras it has been found that honey bees have specific members of the colony whose sole job is to keep the brood warm, dubbed "Heater Bees".

As if that isn't surprising enough, they have also ascertained that the temperature a larva is kept at will determine what job the eventual adult bee will perform.

The empty cells among brood, it turns out, are there on purpose so that the Heater Bees can crawl into them and warm up several other brood cells from one centralized spot.

Since the original study is in German I unfortunately cannot read or site the actual paper, but Professor Tautz has a newly translated book out titled "The Buzz About Bees: Biology of a Superorganism" that I have on order. You can check out the British newspaper which has an article on the study at:

You can also go to Professor Tautz's HOBOS project website which is (mostly) translated to English.

Professor Tautz's work is also featured on the BBC show "Invisible World"

Don't forget that I have been posting most of my bee shananigans on my other blog homesteader bees.  So if you are interested in the bees, check over there. I usually post there once a week.


  1. I agree about the "old timers". It has been so long, that this generation is having to learn the way our ancestors did thousands of years ago. Perhaps it will allow for a better rebirth?


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