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Physiological Correlates of Foraging Efforts in Honey-Bees: Oxygen Consumption and Nectar Load

Th. J. Wolf, P. Schmid-Hempel, C. P. Ellington and R. D. Stevenson
Functional Ecology
Vol. 3, No. 4 (1989), pp. 417-424
DOI: 10.2307/2389615
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2389615
Page Count: 8
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Physiological Correlates of Foraging Efforts in Honey-Bees: Oxygen Consumption and Nectar Load
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Abstract

The quantitative economic analysis of the process of nectar collection by honey-bee workers (Apis mellifera L.) (Schmid-Hempel, Kacelnik & Houston, 1985) suggests that the dependence of energetic expenditure during slow manoeuvring flight on the size of the nectar load sets an important physiological constraint to foraging strategies of individuals. In this study, we have now measured rate of oxygen consumption over a range of body masses for single workers of the honey-bee. Body mass was experimentally varied by feeding different amounts of sugar solution to the individuals. Measurements were obtained for bees in free forward flight at 0.5 m s-1 in a wind tunnel and at an ambient temperature of 32C. The wind tunnel was part of a differential, constant-pressure, variable-volume respirometer that allowed measurements of partial pressure of oxygen with a precision of 5-10 ppm. Using this system observations on nine different individuals (each tested at a range of body masses) were possible. Rate of oxygen consumption (VO2, in ml h-1) for pooled individuals increased with body mass as VO2 = 0.514 m0.629, where m = body mass in mg. A significant positive correlation was found for seven out of the nine bees, with significant variation among individuals. Further measurements were made for hovering bees (three individuals) with VO2 = 0.417 m0.648. Oxygen consumption in motionless and walking bees was quite variable. With these results, an increase in metabolic expenditure as a function of load (i.e. body mass) carried is demonstrated for the first time for the honey-bee. The findings support the interpretation of honey-bee foraging strategy given by Schmid-Hempel, Kacelnik & Houston (1985) and quantify an important physiological constraint for ecologically important behaviours.

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