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Abstract

By means of infrared thermography and without disturbing social interactions, the correlation between thoracic temperature in honeybees, Apis mellifera carnica, upon their return to the hive and their foraging distance was investigated. Thoracic temperature while dancing and walking and during trophallactic contact with hive bees decreased with increasing flight distance. In bees foraging 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2 molar sucrose solutions from a distance of 120 m, dancing temperature amounted to 38.4, 40.1, 40.9 and 40.6 °C, respectively; while in bees foraging from a distance of 2950 m it amounted to 36.6, 38.4, 38.6 and 39.1 °C, respectively. The rate of decrease in dancing temperature per 1000 m increase in flight distance was 0.64, 0.47, 0.81 and 0.54 °C with a 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2 molar sucrose solution, respectively. Both at short and at long flight distances, the relationship between thoracic temperature and sucrose concentration of the food followed a non-linear curve, which flattened at concentrations higher than 1 mol/1. The experiments showed that inside the hive the foragers' level of thermoregulation depends not only on the energy (sugar) content of the food; but rather, the level of thermoregulation corresponds to the general quality of the food source, which includes both energy content and distance from the hive. Because the thermal behaviour of foragers correlates with several behavioural parameters indicating the bees' foraging tendency and their eagerness to dance, thoracic temperature seems to be a correlate of the profitability of foraging.