Supplementary Information from Collective ventilation in honeybee nests
2019-01-14T13:29:51Z (GMT) by
European honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) live in large congested nest cavities with a single opening that limits passive ventilation. When the local air temperature exceeds a threshold, the nests are actively ventilated by bees fanning their wings at the nest entrance. Here, we show that colonies with relatively large nest entrances use an emergent ventilation strategy where fanning bees self-organize to form groups, separating regions of continuous inflow and outflow. The observed spatio-temporal patterns correlate the air velocity and air temperature along the entrances to the distribution of fanning bees. A mathematical model that couples these variables to known fanning behaviour of individuals recapitulates their collective dynamics. Additionally, the model makes predictions about the temporal stability of the fanning group as a function of the temperature difference between the environment and the nest. Consistent with these predictions, we observe that the fanning groups drift, cling to the entrance boundaries, break-up and reform as the ambient temperature varies over a period of days. Overall, our study shows how honeybees use flow-mediated communication to self-organize into a steady state in fluctuating environments.