Honey bee

Behavior of bees from inside the hive

video: Honey bee hygiene: Cannibalism.
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Credit: Siefert et al, 2021, PLOS ONE (CC-BY 4.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Unique video from inside hives provides special insight into bee behaviors, according to a study published March 17, 2021 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Paul Siefert of Goethe-Universität, Germany, and his colleagues.

Although the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) lives in large and complex colonies, it is the collective behavior of the single individuals in the hive that determines the success of the colony – behaviors such as nest building, foraging food, food storage and maturation, brood nursing, temperature regulation, hygiene or defense of the hive. Most of these activities take place inside the hive structure itself and are not easily observable – but in this study, Siefert and his colleagues were able to videotape individual honeycomb frames and even cells inside special glass-framed observation hives, providing new insights into honey bee behavior at the individual level.

For these videos, the authors continuously recorded truncated honeycomb cells in the brood area of ​​their observation hives with the frames rotated 90 degrees for visibility, allowing a side view into the cells in the middle of the colony.

Recordings show a range of worker, progeny and queen behaviors in the brood cells, including the laying of the queen’s eggs; embryonic hatching and larval cocooning; inspection of nurse worker bees and feeding of larvae; workers’ use of wax scales and existing nesting material to reshape combs; storage of pollen and nectar in cells; and hygienic practices, such as cannibalism, grooming, and cleaning surfaces. Additionally, Siefert and colleagues captured several previously undocumented processes, such as mouth-to-mouth feeding of nurse bees to larvae as well as thermoregulation of nurse bees in cells containing developing brood, causing eggs to descend into their comb cells.

The wealth of video recordings providing specific examples of bee behavior will prove insightful to scientists as well as beekeepers and the general public. In particular, the authors hope that their material will help raise awareness of critical declines in pollinators and bee populations, and encourage the use of their work for educational purposes.

The authors add: “In this study, the authors provide a comprehensive source of online video material that provides a view of the behavior of honey bees in the comb cells of a functioning colony. By providing a new mode of observation for the scientific community, beekeepers and the general public, the authors draw attention to the general decline in insect biomass and diversity.”


Interview with author Dr. Paul Siefert.

These Q&As may be quoted in media coverage; questions should be attributed to PLOS and answers to Dr. Paul Siefert (Institut für Bienenkunde der Polytechnischen Gesellschaft Faculty Biological Sciences JW Goethe-University of Frankfurt am Main).

PLOS: What first prompted you to study honey bees and their behavior?

Dr. Siefert: During my studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, I became interested in eusocial behavior after some practical work with squirrel monkeys. Eusocial behavior is the highest level of social organization and includes cooperative brood care, overlapping generations, and division of labor. Interestingly, apart from mammals, only a few arthropods live eusocially, such as ants, termites, and honey bees.

PLOS: What did you choose to study in this study, and why?

Siefert: In a previous project, my colleagues and I investigated the effects of insecticides on brood care of honey bees within the colony, using long-term video recordings. As there was great interest in my videos of developing bees in comb cells in the scientific community and the public, I decided to post other behavioral videos which were also recorded during this time. Our primary goal is to educate beekeepers and the public about the fascinating methods bees have for organizing their colonies.

PLOS: What are the main conclusions of your research?

Siefert: We were able to visualize behaviors in comb cells, which are usually hidden from view, and until recently were mostly described through text and line art, which lack the dynamics of images. moving. This provides insight into worker behaviors, including the use of wax scales and existing nesting material to reshape combs, storage of pollen and nectar in cells, brood care and thermoregulation, and hygienic practices, such as cannibalism, grooming and cleaning surfaces.

PLOS: What surprised or interested you the most in your discoveries?

Siefert: In general, I’m fascinated by how bees are able to choose the beneficial decision for the colony, and I wonder how they perceive their environment and information, and whether their actions are based on learning or learning. ‘instinct. Concretely, I was surprised to see that the first of the two workers, who successively entered the same cell which contained parasites (the mite Varroa destructor), did not care at all, but the next vigorously attacked the mites.

PLOS: What do you hope your findings will lead to and what are the next steps in your research?

Siefert: With our videos, we want to bring the processes of a fully functioning social insect colony into classrooms and homes, facilitating ecological awareness in modern times. We encourage non-commercial use of our material to educate beekeepers, the media and the public and, in turn, draw attention to the general decline in insect biomass and diversity. In the coming months, I want to use the video method for research that requires the collection of precisely age-determined eggs.

Citation: Siefert P, Buling N, Grünewald B (2021) Behaviors of honey bees in the hive: insights from long-term video analysis. PLOS ONE 16(3): e0247323. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247323

Funding: We thank the European Union and the Land of Hesse (Germany) for funding this project. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that there are no competing interests.

In your coverage, please use this URL to provide access to the article available for free in PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247323

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