Even the midnight sun won't convince bees to work nights

Jun 28, 2010
These bumblebees are tagged with rfid chips. Credit: Stelzer et al., BMC Biology

Bees observe a strict working day, even in conditions of 24-hour sunlight. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology tagged worker bumblebees with a radio identifier, similar to an Oyster Card, which was used to monitor their movements during the constant light of the Arctic summer.

Ralph Stelzer and Lars Chittka from Queen Mary University of London, UK, carried out the study at a research station in Northern Finland. According to Stelzer, "Constant daylight would seem to provide a unique opportunity for foragers to maximise intake, and therefore colony growth, by remaining active during the entire 24-hour period. We found that bees do not naturally take advantage of this opportunity, suggesting that there is some benefit to an 'overnight' break".

The researchers studied both native bees and a group of they imported into the Arctic. Both species worked a day shift, with maximum activity around midday, and retired to their nests well before midnight. Stelzer and Chittka speculate that the bees must have some way of telling the time in the absence of day/night cues, suggesting that the insects may be sensitive to and quality or changes in temperature.

Speaking about the possible advantages gained by taking some time off, the researchers said, "Despite the light, temperatures do fall during the Arctic 'night', so it may be that the bees need to return to their nests in order to warm their brood. Also, it has been suggested that a period of sleep helps to remember information gained during the day's foraging".

Explore further: In hot and cold water: The private lives of 'Hoff' crabs revealed

More information: Bumblebee foraging rhythms under the midnight sun measured with radiofrequency identification, Ralph J Stelzer and Lars Chittka, BMC Biology (in press), www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/

Related Stories

Smells like bees' spirit

Aug 13, 2008

Bumblebees choose whether to search for food according to how stocked their nests are, say scientists from Queen Mary, University of London.

Bees see super color at super speed

Mar 17, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Bees see the world almost five times faster than humans, according to new research from scientists at Queen Mary, University of London.

Bees Throw Out Mites

Sep 11, 2009

Honey bees are now fighting back aggressively against Varroa mites, thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) efforts to develop bees with a genetic trait that allows them to more easily find the mites ...

Study: City bees better than rural bees

Jan 17, 2006

A French beekeepers' association says it has determined bees reared in cities are healthier and more productive than bees raised in rural areas.

Recommended for you

Study shows one reason why pigeons so rarely crash

5 hours ago

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers with Harvard University has uncovered one of the secrets behind pigeons' impressive flight abilities. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of ...

Gold standard management of the diabetic cat

6 hours ago

The International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), the veterinary division of International Cat Care, has convened an expert panel of veterinary clinicians and academics to produce practical guidance to ...

Shark's sixth sense aid attacks from below

6 hours ago

Wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus) and angel sharks (Squatina australis) have evolved unique electrosensory pores that aid attacks on unsuspecting prey from beneath, according to a recent study.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.