Modeling honey bee colonies in winter using a keller-segel model with a sign-changing chemotactic coefficient

Robbin Bastiaansen*, Arjen Doelman, Frank Van Langevelde, Vivi Rottschafer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Thermoregulation in honey bee colonies during winter is thought to be self-organized. We added mortality of individual honey bees to an existing model of thermoregulation as an approach to model the elevated losses of bees that are reported worldwide. The aim of this analysis is to obtain a better fundamental understanding of the consequences of individual mortality during winter. This model resembles the well-known Keller-Segel model. In contrast to the often studied Keller-Segel models, our model includes a chemotactic coefficient of which the sign can change as honey bees have a preferred temperature: When the local temperature is too low, they move toward higher temperatures, whereas the opposite is true for too high temperatures. Our study shows that we can distinguish two states of the colony: One in which the colony size is above a certain critical number of bees in which the bees can keep the core temperature of the colony above the threshold temperature and one in which the core temperature drops below the critical threshold and the mortality of the bees increases dramatically, leading to a sudden death of the colony. This model behavior may help explain the globally observed honey bee colony losses during winter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-863
Number of pages25
JournalSIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Ecology
  • Spatial self-organization
  • Thermoregulation


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