Data from: The behavioral regulation of thirst, water collection, and water storage in honey bee colonies

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This data is from a study that investigates how a honey bee colony develops and quenches its collective thirst when it experiences hyperthermia of its broodnest, the nest region whose temperature and humidity are precisely regulated. We found that in this emergency situation a colony must strongly boost its water intake because evaporative cooling is critical to avoiding broodnest hyperthermia, and it must rapidly boost its water intake because a colony maintains only a small water reserve. We also shed light on how the worker bees functioning as water collectors know when to spring into action—by sensing either more frequent requests for fluid or greater personal thirst, or both—and we demonstrate that this sensing mechanism is sufficiently fine-tuned to prevent overheating and desiccation of the colony's brood. Finally, we found that the impressive behavioral flexibility of a colony's water collectors enables them not only to satisfy their colony's current water needs, but also to buffer their colony somewhat against future extreme water stresses by storing water in their crops and in the combs.
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This study was supported by a Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholarship (to M.M.O), by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE-1144153 to M.L.S.), and by Hatch Funds administered by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (to T.D.S.).
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Apis mellifera; social thirst; water collection; water storage
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Ostwald, Madeleine M., Michael L. Smith and Thomas D. Seeley (2016). The behavioral regulation of thirst, water collection and water storage in honey bee colonies. J Exp. Bio. 219: 2156-2165. doi: 10.1242/jeb.139824
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