Student work
Artificial life


Despite the homing site decisions and the collective foraging in social animal communities, the regulation and preparation of their nests/homes is a very interesting field.

In ants, the erection of the nest, the digging of caves and domes, the branching of the caves is an interesting research field. For example, many ant species are able to make connections between domes or even between distant sub-nests in a ways that the do not dig more caves and branches as are necessary, but they still dig enough of them in the right place to create a “minimum spanning tree” between their points of interest (domes, nests).

Honey bees also have the ability to create an efficient inner-nest architecture by creating their combs. But in addition to the indirect ways ants and termites have developed to regulate their nest climate, honeybees do actively regulate the temperature on their combs. In contrast to most other insects, which cannot regulate their body temperature independently from the environmental temperature, honeybees have developed a method to heat up their body acitvely. This feature, together with the distribution of air by actively fanning with their wings inside of the hive gives the colony the ability for controlling their nest climate even in very hot (summer) or in very cold (winter) times.

But controlling of the nest climate by thousands of single bees correctly and efficiently is a very complex task, which was researched by experiments and models frequently. I will present here some simulations based on published models (click here) and based on our own research (in future). Models about other nest-homeostasis and nest-building topics will be presented on a separate sheet called “nest building” (will follow soon).

There are 2 main points of interest in honeybee thermoregulation:

  • Thermoregulation during the normal foraging season.
  • Thermoregulation during the winter-cluster season.
  • Thermoragulation in honeybee reproductional swarms

Although some papers suggest that the same principles are working in both types of situation, published models only treat one of these cases explicitly.

A StarLogo adaptation of the model of Sumpter and Broomhead, that I created for teaching reasons, can be seen here.

Further readings

  • Camazine S., Deneubourg J.-L., Franks N.R., Sneyd J., Theraulaz G. and Bonabeau E. (2001) Self-Organization in biological systems. Princeton University Press.
  • Buatois A. and Croze J.P. (1978) Thermal responses of an insect subjected to temperature variations. J. Thermal Biology 3:51-56

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