How do birds and bees cool off during hot summer days?

Photo: Water-collecting bees will make multiple flights for the good of the hive. Each bee can carry only about 50 micrograms of water in a flight.

(Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)


Birds do it, bees do it: animal cooling strategies to beat the heat

From birds walking around with their mouths open to bees spritzing their hives: how animals cope in hot weather.

On a really hot day you’ll see crows and other birds holding their mouths open. They are practicing what scientists call gular fluttering — panting.

Watch video here

Bees have multiple strategies to beat the heat.

For bumblebees, flight is the ticket. The convective cooling of their self-made breeze helps them cope.

But honeybees, cooped up by the thousands in their hive, have to take multiple steps to survive — and protect next year’s brood, maturing in cells deep in the hive.

For starters, like people, they’ll head outside. As much as a third to half the residents of the hive will evacuate on a hot day, diminishing the heat all their bodies are generating.

If that isn’t enough, they will practice what Tom Seeley, professor of biology in the department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, calls “social ventilation.” The bees will stand at the entrance to the hive, line up, and beat their wings in synchrony to generate air velocities of more than 6 feet per second. “It’s quite a breeze, you can put your hand in front of a hive and actually feel a draft,” Seeley said.

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