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: Two new species of yellow-shouldered bats endemic to the Neotropics

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

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User comments : 3

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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 !!!

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