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The Mystery Of The Empty Cell Solved

There has been a new discovery in the world of beekeeping that may change the way you think about your queen. Until very recently empty cells in a bee hive were generally thought to be a negative thing. Beekeepers have puzzled over the function of these seemingly useless empty nooks thinking that they surely must be some sort of problem with the queens ability to lay eggs.

But, with the advent of new thermal imaging technology scientists now realize that these empty cells indeed have a function, in fact, the cells are critical to the very structure and function of the entire colony. Without these empty cells the hive could not function as well as it could.

Beekeepers have known for years that bees are organized into a highly stratified society of different “castes”, but there was one special kind of bee that they had no idea existed, that is until the use of thermal imaging was implemented to study the hives. Beekeeping will never be the same.

This newly discovered type of bee, the ones that fill the empty cells, have been dubbed “heater bees”; and this is no doubt a very apt name.

The heater bees use the empty cells of the hive to crawl inside and literally heat the surrounding cells with its body, the cell walled structure passes on heat radiating outwards from the heater bee’s body.

A heater bee has decoupled wings and can heat it’s body a full 10 degrees Celsius higher than the average bee, or 44 degrees Celsius to be exact. This heating process is the very mechanism which creates the subtle changes in developing larvae, transforming them into adult bees of their own particular caste and societal function.

For example, a developing bee which is exposed to 35 degrees Celsius will become a forager bee, and a larva exposed to 34 degrees Celsius will become a housekeeper bee. Without the heater bee the entire society and structure of the bee hive would not be able to function in such harmony with each bee carrying out its own specific task and no other.

A colony’s success and survival relies on creating a certain number of each type of bee so that all of the functions of the hive are dutifully carried out and life can be sustained. As heat radiates outward from the heater bees the hive is assured that a certain number of each type of bee will be created and in the proper ratios.

A forager bee is the kind of bee that we see floating gently from flower to flower in our garden’s during the summer months, but there are many other kinds of bees which reside inside the hive never to leave. A housekeeper bee is one kind, there are also nest building bees, queen caretakers, brood caretakers, and guard bees.

Forager bees go out to gather precious nectar and pollen from flowering plants, bringing it back to the hive so that it may be used a food source, a noble task indeed. However if all bees performed that function the hive would collapse because nobody would be home to guard the queen, clean things up, and feed the developing pupae.

So the mystery of the empty cell is solved, but who knows what new mysteries will be uncovered as we struggle to understand this insect which is so vital to our and the planet’s survival.

Article Source: Ezine articles


  1. wayne poore says

    nice article

  2. Catherine deVries says

    Interesting information!

  3. Pat Kalousek says

    Amazing creatures! Thanks for posting this info!

  4. Excellent new information, it’s quite amazing!
    Santiago Wallace
    Wallace Family Apiary

  5. Well, I’ll BEE buggered!! 🙂

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