How Bees Stay Cool on Hot Summer Days

February 6, 2019

To determine how bees organize to cool their nests, researchers measured temperature, air flow into and out of the nest, and the position and density of bees fanning at the nest entrance. (Image courtesy of Jacob Peters/Harvard SEAS).

If you’ve ever walked past a bee’s nest on a hot summer day, you’ve probably been too focused avoiding getting stung, rather than stopping to wonder how all those bees stay cool. Don’t worry, Harvard scientists have braved the stingers to ask and answer that question for you.

Honey bees live in large, congested nest cavities, often in tree hollows with narrow openings. When it gets hot inside the nest, a group of bees crawl to the entrance and use their wings as fans to draw hot air out and allow cooler air to move in. The question is, how do bees self-organize into these living ventilating units?

[Researchers in the Professor L. Mahadevan's group] have developed a framework that explains how bees use environmental signals to collectively cluster and continuously ventilate the hive...

Continue reading "How bees stay cool on hot summer days" by Leah Burrows, 6 February 2019.

Also read the research article: Jacob M. Peters, Orit Peleg, and L. Mahadevan, "Collective ventilation in honeybee nests," Journal of the Royal Society Interface (January 2019).