Japanese honeybees swarm huge hornet predator to kill it with heat

March 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: Bees show sophisticated learning abilities

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

Related Stories

Bees show sophisticated learning abilities

March 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 past decade ...

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.

Honeybees entomb to protect from pesticides

April 8, 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 on their colonies. ...

Native bees are better pollinators than honeybees

October 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 more plentiful ...

Honeybees shown to speak directly to hornets

February 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 them. Lower order ...

Recommended for you

Researchers design first artificial ribosome

July 29, 2015

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins ...

Studies reveal details of error correction in cell division

July 29, 2015

Cell biologists led by Thomas Maresca at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with collaborators elsewhere, report an advance in understanding the workings of an error correction mechanism that helps cells detect and ...

Researchers discover new type of mycovirus

July 29, 2015

Researchers, led by Dr Robert Coutts, Leverhulme Research Fellow from the School of Life and Medical Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire, and Dr Ioly Kotta-Loizou, Research Associate at Imperial College, have discovered ...

Stressed out plants send animal-like signals

July 29, 2015

University of Adelaide research has shown for the first time that, despite not having a nervous system, plants use signals normally associated with animals when they encounter stress.

3 comments

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.