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Body Surface Temperature and Heat Loss by Convection in Honey Bees in a Semi-Arid

1 2 2,
Michele Daiana Ferreira de Carvalho , Alex Sandro Campos Maia , Daniel Santiago Pereira
Federal Agricultural University of Semi-Arid Region, Mossoró, RN, Brazil


The bees can change their body temperature for the realization of activities (Heinrich, 1978).
For the bees are in thermal comfort, they depend on the ability to dissipate the excess heat from
the body through evaporation, radiation and convection (Church, 1959). In tropical region the air
temperature can be higher than that of body surface temperature especially during the day, thus
the convection and radiation can became mechanisms of gain heat than loss (Maia et al.,
2005). However, body surface temperature is not homogeneously distributed on the body
surface there is a significant difference, according to the body surface area (Heinrich, 1978).
The present investigation compares the temperature of various selected areas of the body
surface in honey bees and its loss heat by convection to surrounding.


Five hundred and thirty-one observations were done of body surface temperature of hundred
and seventy-seven bees under the environmental conditions of Mossoró, RN, Brazil (5o11’
South latitude) including the period of months from November 2007 to March 2008. The body
surface temperature (tS, ºC) was measured when the honey bee was immobilized for a few
seconds in the wings arrested by the fingers thumb and indicator of the hand, with Termopar
type T (0.3 cm diameter) touching in three different areas of the body surface of bee (head,
thorax and abdomen) and about three different conditions of sampling (foraging, hive entrance
and into the hive).
The rate of convective heat flow ( C R , W m ) from the coat surface to the surrounding air
is given by the equation (McArthur 1987; daSilva 2000a,b; Turnpenny et al. 2000):
c p
CR  (t S  t A ) (1)
where tS and tA (ºC) are the body surface temperature and air temperature, respectively, while
rH (s m-1) is the boundary layer resistance to convective heat transfer,
c p d A
rH  (2)
kN U
where cp (J
-3 -1
m K ) is the volumetric specific heat, and d A (m) is the average diameter of
-1 -1
body, and k (W m K ) the thermal conductivity of the air. These thermal properties were
obtained according to daSilva (2000a, b). The Nusselt number ( N U ), which in this case was
estimated as for a horizontal cylinder with 0.012 m of length and 0.0043 m of diameter, was
determined using Reynolds, Prandt and Grashof numbers calculated according to Chapman
(1987), Montheith and Unsworth (1990) and daSilva (2000b).
The data were analysed by the least-squares method (Harvery, 1960) by using the
Statistical Analysis System (SAS Institute, 1995), according to following model:
Yijklm  α  l i  b ji  s k  rl  i1il  i 2 jil  b1t A  b2U R  b3t G  ε ijklm (3)
Where Yijklm is the observation of body temperature measured in the m-ésima bee; li is the fixed
effect of the ith sample place ( i =1,...,3); b is the random effect of the ith bee within jth sample
place (j=1,…,3); s is the fixed effect of the kth day of sampling (k=1,…,6); r is the fixed effect of
lth body region (l=1,…,3); i1 is the effect of the interaction between the ith sample place with the

1Correspondence to: M.D.F. Carvalho, Laboratory of Biometeorology and Animal Welfare,

Master’s Degree Student , Department of Animal Science, Federal Agricultural University of the
Semi-Arid Region, 59625-900 Mossoró, RN, Brazil, e.mail:
lth body region; i2 is the effect of the interaction between the ith bee within jth sample place with
the lth body region; b1, b2 and b3 are the coefficients of regression on the air temperature,
relative humidity and globe temperature;  ijklm is the random error and α the intercept.


The variance analyses showed that the effect of sample place and body region were significant
(P<0.05). Table 1 show that the average the body surface temperature in honey bees differ,
according to sample place, being the surface temperature in the hiver entrance (35.39±0.16°C)
higher than to into the hiver (34.50±0.16°C) and foraging (31.95±0.16°C). A possible
explanation for the bees have a higher surface temperature of body in the hiver entrance and
into the hiver than that foraging is due to be a social insect and in places it exchange heat with
micro-environmental of hiver and with other bees. However, foraging only exchange heat with
Can be observed in Table 1 the body surface temperature was not homogenously
distributed, being the thorax temperature higher than that head and abdomen. It was too
observed for Schmaranzer and Kovac (1996) and Heinrich (1978 and 1979ab). Heinrich (1978
and 1979ab) explains that this occurs because the active flight muscle located in this region and
the flow of hemolymph distribution of the thorax to the head and then to abdomen.

Table 1. Least-squares means of body surface temperature (°C) of honey bees, according to
sample place and body region.
n tS
Mean 531 34.64±0.12
Hiver entrance 180 35.39±0.15
Into the hiver 231 34.50±0.13
Foraging 120 31.95±0.35
Body region
Thorax 177 34.71±0.16
Head 177 33.82±0.16
Abdomen 177 33.30±0.16
Number of observations. Means with the same superscript do not differ statistically by Tukey`s test

On the other hand Figure 1 show the interaction between sample place with body region
was not significant (P>0.05), that the thorax surface temperature always was higher than that of
the head and it as upper then abdomen, independently of sample place. The variance analysis
indicated that regression coefficient of air temperature and relative humidity was significant
(P>0.05). The air temperature showed a positive correlation (r = 0.54) with body surface
temperature, while air humidity this correlation was negative (r = -0.43). The results suggested
that the body surface temperature of bee depends both air temperature and metabolic rate
(Roberts and Harrison, 1999).
The Figure 2 demonstrate that to horizontal cylinder with dimension similar to honey bee,
according to increase of the temperature gradient (tS-tA) measured in honey bee managed in
semi-arid region increase heat loss by convection, mainly if occur elevation of air velocity.
However, when the honey bee found Hiver entrance or into the hiver, they are about condition
of still air. In this case the heat loss by convection increase of 0 to 7.5 when
temperature gradient increase of 0 to 10ºC, but if wind for 1.0 m.s the heat loss by convection
increase of 0 to 27.5 . Roberts and Harrison (1999), found that yield of metabolic heat
by honey bee decreased to 48.75 from 13 when temperature gradient decreased to
9.5 from 1ºC. The results showed that same about weak wind the convection can answer
between 60 to 80% of heat loss by honey bee to environmental. The similar result was found by
Church (1959) to flying insects.

Body surface temperature (ºC)

32 Abdomen
31 Head

30 Thorax

Hiver entrance Into the hiver Foraging
Sam ple place

Fig. 1. Body surface temperature of honey bee, according to body region and sample place.

30 1.0 m.s 30
Convection ( )

20 20
Convection ( )

0.5 m.s

10 10

0.0 m.s

0 0

-10 -10
-4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 10 12
Temperature gradient (tS-tA)

Fig. 2. Heat loss by convection ( ), according to three different wind speed simulation in
function of gradient temperature (tS-tA) observed in honey bee managed in semi-arid region,
being tS (ºC) the body surface temperature and tA (ºC) air temperature.


The present study confirmed that was a significantly difference of surface temperature,
according to part of body, being the thorax temperature was always higher than that of head
and abdomen, independently of sample place. The heat loss by convection can answer
between 60 to 80% of heat loss by honey bee to environmental same about weak wind.

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