Hot Defensive Bee Ball Cooks Hornet Alive

By Sarah Zhang | March 19, 2012 3:59 pm

spacing is important
It’s a hot mess.

A giant hornet feasting on honeybee larvae has nothing to fear from a honeybee’s stinger. That puny thing? Ain’t gonna pierce this rigid exoskeleton. But 500 angry bees—now that’s a problem.

When Japanese honeybees detect a hornet in their hive, they swarm around it by the hundreds. The collective vibration of their flight muscles makes it just hot enough (about 116 F) to be lethal for the hornet. Give it 30 to 6o minutes, and the hornet has been cooked to death.

Japanese scientists were curious about the brain activity that coordinated this complex honeybee behavior. After baiting the honeybees with a doomed hornet (see video below), they plucked several bees from the ball and identified brain areas active during the hot defensive bee ball.

Image via Ugajin et al, PLoS ONE; video via PopSci 

  • JT

    I’d read about this some years back, and used it to come up with a nifty, safe way to get rid of wasps in the walls or on trees. A shop vacuum, with a pole-mounted extention hose- you put the business end under the main entrance to the nest, turn it on and walk away for a while. When you come back most of the foragers will be in the vac. Then you transfer the hose to your car exhaust pipe and let the car idle for a quarter hour. Voila! Lots of dead wasps. Whether the heat did it or carbon monoxide or lack of O2 I’ll leave up to the medical examiner’s office.


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