Still, the fact that the bees on the island managed to spend weeks inside the hive insulating themselves from such oppressive conditions was surprising — and even inspirational, Dr. Steinhauer said.
“It is a very empowering story,” she said. “It tells a lot about the resilience of honeybees.”
For over a decade, beekeepers and researchers have raised alarms about bees — which play a critical role in agriculture — dying at high rates, even during the summer when bees are producing food and caring for their young.
Honeybees are not endangered, and beekeepers are able to replace lost colonies throughout the year, said Dr. Steinhauer, who is also a science coordinator for the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories.
But the high mortality rate is concerning and especially stressful for beekeepers, who must spend considerable time and money replacing dying colonies.
In the United States, the mortality rate has been particularly high, even though the total number of honeybee colonies has remained fairly stable over the last 20 years, according to the Bee Informed Partnership.
Still, honeybees remain adaptable and resourceful, said Keith S. Delaplane, the director of the Honey Bee Program at the University of Georgia and a professor of entomology.
Bees will build hives in tree hollows or abandoned tires, he said.
Stories abound of honeybees that survived forest fires after the worker bees, fanning their wings, managed to lower the temperatures of the hives. When a fire destroyed the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, a beekeeper who kept several hives on the roof was thrilled to find that the bees had stayed alive by gorging on honey.