A desert bee thermoregulates with an abdominal convector during flight

Meredith G. Johnson, Jordan R. Glass, Jon F. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Flying endothermic insects thermoregulate, likely to improve flight performance. Males of the Sonoran Desert bee, Centris caesalpiniae, seek females at aggregations beginning at sunrise and cease flight near midday when the air temperature peaks. To identify the thermoregulatory mechanisms for C. caesalpiniae males, we measured tagma temperature, wingbeat frequency, water loss rate, metabolic rate and tagma mass of flying bees across shaded air temperatures of 19–38°C. Surface area, wet mass and dry mass declined with air temperature, suggesting that individual bees do not persist for the entire morning. The largest bees may be associated with cool, early mornings because they are best able to warm themselves and/or because they run the risk of overheating in the hot afternoons. Thorax temperature was high (38–45°C) and moderately well regulated, while head and abdomen temperatures were cooler and less controlled. The abdominal temperature excess ratio increased as air temperature rose, indicating active heat transfer from the pubescent thorax to the relatively bare abdomen with warming. Mass-specific metabolic rate increased with time, and air and thorax temperatures, but wingbeat frequency did not vary. Mass-specific water loss rate increased with air temperature, but this was a minor mechanism of thermoregulation. Using a heat budget model, we showed that whole-body convective conductance more than doubled through the morning, providing strong evidence that the primary mechanism of regulating thorax temperature during flight for these bees is increased use of the abdomen as a convector at higher air temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb244147
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Biophysical ecology
  • Heat budget
  • Solitary bees
  • Thermal biology
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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