If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Hive

Beware the Hot Defensive Bee Ball

I was watching National Geographic documentaries again this weekend and liked this bit of biology. It’s bee vs. hornet! Normal honeybees have no defense against hornets and end up getting massacred during an attack. According to the Nat Geo program, lone hornets scout hives and then “mark” them with pheromones that signal in the reinforcements. When the hornet hit squad returns, the honeybees have no way to overcome the hornets. However, Japanese Honeybees have developed a defense against their deadly foe. The only hope for the colony is if the bees kill the scout hornet before it has the chance to mark the hive. Therefore, it is vital that the honeybees take an early offense, and these Japanese Honeybees figured out how. The honeybees swarm the scout hornet and vibrate their wings so fast that the heat inside the bee ball rises to 47C (almost 120F)! The hornet cannot withstand the heat and is slowly cooked alive. In this specific article, the scientists also removed bees during the ‘hot defensive bee ball’ process and discovered that the bees engage in higher brain functions during the swarm, most likely for communication purposes. Great example of strength in numbers and using your resources!

Honeybee Bee Ball. Wiki Commons: Takahashi

Honeybee Bee Ball. Wiki Commons: Takahashi

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