Internal temperature of overwintering migratory bee hives 

W. G. MEIKLE et al

 “Internal hive temperature was found to be an effective response variable in detecting differences among colonies during winter and post winter, even before those effects manifested themselves on the colony level.”                                         

A recent publication from Carl Hayden Bee Research Centre in Arizona has highlighted how monitoring the internal hive temperature can be used to assess colony’s potential for overwintering success. Study was conducted to compare the health of two groups of migratory colonies: one group was exposed to commercial pollination and the other group was kept near natural forage during summer months. Internal hive temperatures were then monitored all throughout the autumn and winter for two consecutive seasons.

Overwintering Bee Hives

Overwintering Bee Hives

Adult bee population actively regulates the temperature of the nest, or at least part of it, to maintain the temperature homeostasis essential for brood rearing. Ability to do this is a result of coordinated collective behaviour and as such may be used as an indicator of colony function and health. During the periods of diminishing colony activity in autumn and winter the existing diseases and deficiencies are more likely to manifest and amplify due to colony’s reduced ability to buffer the negative effects. Thus, during autumn and winter, stronger, more resilient colonies show better temperature control which can be observed both as higher average temperature and lesser temperature variability throughout the winter. In this study the group exposed to agricultural pollination performed worse than the natural forage group. For discussion on the reasons underlying the differences read the full article. For beekeepers with hive monitoring systems temporal pattern of pre-winter and winter internal hive temperature can give an early assessment of colonies’ fitness and hence time to decide on correct management.