Study: Dehydration a greater threat than heat stress in honey bees when temps climb

By Greg Hahne
Published: Monday, March 4, 2024 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2024 - 7:29am

Bees on honeycomb at Arizona State University
Amber Victoria Singer/KJZZ
Bees on a honeycomb at Arizona State University's Bee Lab Annex.

new study examined how honey bees behave in high temperatures. The study found that while heat is a danger, the biggest threat was the possibility of the bees drying out. 

Honey bees are able to release moisture to cool off, similar to how humans sweat.

They are also able to change how fast they flap their wings in order to control their body temperature and metabolism.

Robert Glass with the University of Wyoming led the study. He says at about 110 degrees however, dehydration becomes a threat.

“You see them, just call it a day and that's the point where they would lose so much water they would die," he said. 

Glass says honey bees will stay at their hive if outside temperatures are too high. And that limits how much time they can go out and look for food.

“So they're able to queue in on their water content and they're like, Nope, too hot, can't go out and forage anymore. We're going to call it a day. But that really suggests that dehydration is the biggest threat more than heat stress itself," Glass said. 

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It studied bees at Arizona State University and the University of California, Davis.