Oct 23, 2008

The Bee Ball

Many of you (myself included) were disturbed by my post on Giant Japanese Wasps, and the utter destruction they can visit upon unsuspecting honey bees (killing every single worker bee before absconding with the bee larvae). One thought I had was, why aren't the bees defending themselves?

Turns out bee stingers aren't strong enough to pierce the chitinous hides of the wasp. But native Japanese bees have developed a very effective response to the wasp attack. The Bee Ball.





















The tactic: when a wasp is first spotted, about 100 worker bees hang out by the hive opening and keep it open, thereby luring the wasp inside. Once the wasp has entered, 500 bees, who were lying in wait, swarm the wasp and latch onto it in a bee ball as seen above. The bees then begin to buzz and flap their wings, raising the temperature inside the ball to 47 degrees celsius. The bees can tolerate the temperature just fine, but the wasp has already reached its fatal limit at 45 degrees. The bees literally cook the invader to death.

Honey bees FTW. One more reason to keep a special place in your heart for the little honey makers. And one more reason to steer clear of group hugs.

Thanks for the link, omgwtf.

14 comments:

Milo said...

Didn't the bees heat the ball to 45 degrees, while the bees can tolerate up to 47?

Kit said...

Aww, the video on the link is broken. But that is a REALLY random evolution. The ability to overheat your enemies? How the heck did that one roll around? And how can we teach it to the european honey bees? We need bee education.

niner said...

The article says "The bees can tolerate such temperatures, but the hornet finds even 45 degrees fatal." I don't think it mentions how much a bee can tolerate, but I just skimmed the article.

Very nice for the bees. Go bees!
Doesn't it look like a Christmas ornament?

Flartus said...

Kit,
I would guess hives with the instinct to attack as a group would have developed this defense "accidentally," but being successful, ensured their survival.

Incidentally,I believe bees use this method during winters to keep the hive warm, rotating through the layers so the ones on the outside don't freeze.

They also use their little wings as air conditioners in the summertime, I suppose to keep the queen's honeyade cool.

Danielle said...

DAY UM.

I love honey, I don't mess with bees though.

I think I have a free pass from bees though. I saved one that was drowning once.

Jim said...

That's pretty cool, bees, but whatchu gonna do when 100 hornets come swarming down on you?

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Whoa ... these are really ugly creatures. But interesting too. Very well done.

Theodosia said...

What can I say but GO BEES!

T and S said...

WOW...thanks for the interesting update on the wasp's fatal temperature and a beautiful image to drive home the point

DNLee said...

yeah, my labmate who works with bumblebees was telling us about these species and their behavior at lab meeting last week.

Very interesting.

michelle said...

That is amazing that the bees have evolved to protect themselves like that!

Raging Wombat said...

I think I got the details right...

JMorgan said...

Actually, the bees can only barely tolerate the temperature of their "bee ball". Often, a few (as compared to 500, mind) of the attacking bees die from the heat. It does the job, though.

Anonymous said...

Why don't the bees just wait with tazers by the entrance? Or since this is japan can't they get little bee size samurai swords or learn some bee karate?