Telegraph article on Heater Bees

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Amazing if true.

You can never know enough :)
Well i never, if it is proven then it just goes to show how little we really know about Bees, i doubt many of us would hold the frames while inspecting for quite so long in future. I will watch that programme when it starts with interest.

A very interesting read, until i got to :

"Dr David Aston, chair of the British Beekeepers Association's technical and environmental committee, said: "There has never been a good reason for the presence of individual empty cells across the face of the comb."

Thanks for that little snippet of inspiration, thats one up your pipe isnt it Dr Aston !!!!!!
Just when I thought I was getting the hang of it and now I`m looking for a patchy brood pattern? :svengo:

now I`m looking for a patchy brood pattern?

But too patchy and not enough of these 'radiator' bees might mean the colony is eventually doomed, if all those pupae can not be kept at the correct temperature - or perhaps they all develop into radiator bees instead of foragers? Leave it to the experts to sort out!!

Regards, RAB
I have great belief in the power of nature, but could a Bee really produce enough heat to do the following, thats quite a lot to keep at an optimum temp.

"By creeping into empty cells, one heater bee can transmit heat to 70 pupae around them. It is a central heating system for the colony.
I'm not convinced - probably the programme will be better than the Telegraph write-up. That may say a few things differently.

If a single powerful heat source (44 C) was present, heating 70 cells around it, the nearest cells would be, say, 40 C, then 38, then 36, then 34 as you got further from the 'heater bee'. This doesn't seem to give the fine control of 1 deg (!) that the article says is needed to cause physiological differences in the resulting bees. Keeping a zone of air at a fixed temperature might be possible by controlling ventilation, but you couldn't use conduction from a few hot spots.

The other bit that sounds iffy is the 'job for life' statement. Some become Foragers, some become Nurse bees. This is completely at odds with all the books I've read. It also seems to be at odds with some of the artificial swarm techniques that rely on nurse bees becoming foragers as they get older: surely a moved hive (taking all the nurse bees, but having the foragers return to the original spot with a new hive in it) would just die out as all the nurses had to wait for 3 weeks+ before any new 'forager bees' arrived? This doesn't seem to be what happens by observation, or artificial swarming would be very different.

Just my thoughts.

Thats what i thought about the "job for life" Firegazer, Beekeeping could become even more confused than it already is if there is any truth in this.

When i think back to last year though, one of the nucs i made up after only a day had foragers coming and going, my own conclusion to this was i had removed some foragers on the frames but they had just stayed put with the nuc and not flown home..

Could it be i was looking at pre-programmed Foragers ?
The programe is called "Richard Hammond's Invisible World".

The clue could be in th title,he is not exactly david attenborough is he,I am still trying to work out if this guy is getting work under the "care in the community" scheme.

Was he always a prat or did the accident affect him?
It's German so likely to be right. They have proper research programs, properly funded.

Changes a lot though, very interesting indeed.

funnily enough it may give a fillip to two "extremes" of beekeeping- expanded polystyrene hives because of their insulation properties, and Warré hives which encourage minimal intervention, and maintenance of "essential nest heat and atmosphere"..........
Bizarrely i have just opened a book i was given at xmas "The Buzz About Bees" Jurgen Tautz. :svengo:

On page 7 it talks about Heater Bees and the brood nest micro climate, even has the same thermal image pic.

Knew i should have read it earlier.
I plan to run all my colonies, 10+, Warre style this year in 10 frame National BBs. I'll let you know at the end of the year if it works.

It is described in Tautz's book plus there are pictures taken with a thermal camera showing the heater bees glowing and also, after the bee has moved, the bit of comb they were standing on also glows, showing it is hotter than the surroundings. He also states the empty cells amongst brood are put there deliberately to be used as food sources by other workers which feed the heater bees.

He also describes how different heat regimes produce bees with different skills and roles afterwards. Just as a larva fed plenty of royal jelly turns into a queen , the temperature the pupa is exposed to alters its later behaviour.

The book is "The Buzz About Bees". It won't tell you anything about beekeeping but it is a very interesting read.
The missing cells are there because of diploid drone eggs, queens missing cells and maybe problems with disease. It is uncommon to get 100% egg hatch. I don't think that there is much in this "heater bee" theory. Some bees in the middle of the cluster are more active to produce heat at the core, but I don't think that they heat up the brood on purpose. Up till now I have known that division of labour was age driven.
Best wishes
I plan to run all my colonies, 10+, Warre style this year in 10 frame National BBs. I'll let you know at the end of the year if it works.


I'm intrigued as to what your plan involving the Nationals is Dulwich - are you just going to stack BB on top of BB with no QX as required in order to eventually develop a 'tower'?

What are your thoughts?
The book is a definite must read. Insightful and indicative of the sort of research done. Jurgen Tautz, "The buzz about bees". should have been on the winter reading list. I will definitely give it a second read later in the year and will probably look to see how the TV program treats the subject. :):)

Latest posts