Environmental and genetic influences on flight metabolic rate in the honey bee, Apis mellifera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Flying honey bees demonstrate highly variable metabolic rates. The lowest reported values (approximately 0.3 Wg-1) occur in tethered bees generating the minimum lift to support their body weight, free-flying 2-day old bees, winter bees, or bees flying at high air temperatures (45°C). The highest values (approximately 0.8 Wg-1) occur in foragers that are heavily loaded or flying in low-density air. In different studies, flight metabolic rate has increased, decreased, or remained constant with air temperature. Current research collectively suggests that this variation occurs because flight metabolic rates decrease at thorax temperatures above or below 38°C. At 30°C, approximately 30% of colonial energy is spent during typical foraging, so variation in flight metabolic rate can strongly affect colony-level energy balance. Higher air temperatures tend to increase colonial net gain rates, efficiencies and honey storage rates due to lower metabolic rates during flight and in the hive. Variation in flight metabolism has a clear genetic basis. Different genetic strains of honey bees often differ in flight metabolic rate, and these differences in flight physiology can be correlated with foraging effort, suggesting a possible pathway for selection effects on flight metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-333
Number of pages11
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Africanized honey bee
  • Apis mellifera
  • Development
  • Flight
  • Foraging
  • Honey bee metabolic rate
  • Metabolism
  • Season
  • Temperature
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology


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