Japanese honeybees swarm huge hornet predator to kill it with heat

Mar 14, 2012

Japanese honeybees face a formidable foe in the Asian giant hornet, a fierce predator that can reach 40mm long or larger, but the bees have developed a novel defense mechanism: they create a "hot defensive bee ball," swarming around the hornet and literally cooking it.

Now, a new study published Mar. 14 in the open access journal uncovers some of the neural activity that underlies this unusual behavior, which is not practiced by the Japanese honeybee's European relative.

The researchers, including Takeo Kubo of the University of Tokyo and Masato Ono of Tamagawa University, actually sampled honeybees as they were engaged in a hot defensive bee ball, plucking them off the ball at different time points to investigate the brain function behind this unique adaptive behavior. Using a novel to detect the neural activity evoked in the brains of the honeybees that form the bee ball, they found that neurons that make up the higher brain center are active while the bees are part of the hot ball. This differs from that seen in European honeybees.

Explore further: Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

More information: Ugajin A, Kiya T, Kunieda T, Ono M, Yoshida T, et al. (2012) Detection of Neural Activity in the Brains of Japanese Honeybee Workers during the Formation of a ''Hot Defensive Bee Ball''. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32902. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032902

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Honeybees shown to speak directly to hornets

Feb 15, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Most higher order animals have some means for “speaking” with enemies or predators. Dogs and cats growl and hiss for example when threatened to let others know not to mess with ...

Scientists search for cause of bee deaths

May 14, 2007

A U.S. scientist says parasites, pathogens and pesticides are all possible suspects in the recent staggering decline in the number of the world's honeybees.

Native bees are better pollinators than honeybees

Oct 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The honeybee has hogged the pollination spotlight for centuries, but native bees are now getting their fair share of buzz: They are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are ...

Honeybees entomb to protect from pesticides

Apr 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the drastic rise in the disappearance of honeybee colonies throughout the world in recent years there has become a large focus on the study of honeybees and the effects of pesticides ...

Bees show sophisticated learning abilities

Mar 31, 2005

Honeybees have robust and flexible memory systems that enable them to apply abstract rules to solve novel problems, according to new ANU research. Although the brains of these insects are very small, over the ...

Recommended for you

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

Mysterious glowworm found in Peruvian rainforest

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer has discovered what appears to be a new type of bioluminescent larvae. He told members of the press recently that he was walking near a camp in the Peruvian ...

The unknown crocodiles

Nov 21, 2014

Just a few years ago, crocodilians – crocodiles, alligators and their less-known relatives – were mostly thought of as slow, lazy, and outright stupid animals. You may have thought something like that ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

packrat
1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2012
Sounds to me like bee's are even brighter than people already believe they are.
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2012
evoked in the brains of the honeybees that form the bee ball, they found that neurons that make up the higher brain center are active while the bees are part of the hot ball. This neural activity differs from that seen in European honeybees
Every bee from the nest is smarter than this research. Why the hell attacking bees should stay cool? And why European honeybees should get high, when they don't attack in this way?

'Duh' science: Why researchers spend so much time proving the obvious? This question is rhetorical only: it's the employment stuff.
neovenator
not rated yet Mar 15, 2012
As a matter of fact, I have watched a Discovery Channel documentary some 6-7 years ago !!! where they explained that very same mechanism which is reported as "NEW" finding here, namely: the overheating of the hornet by a ball of bees!!! I guess the news is in the brain activity but in this case your title is misleading !!!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.