Science

Asian honeybees use animal faeces to defend themselves from hornets

Asian honeybees at a hive in Nepal

Marc Anderson/Alamy

Asian honeybees gather animal faeces and dot the doorway of their hives with it as a defence in opposition to group assaults by large hornets.

Heather Mattila at Wellesley Faculty in Massachusetts and her colleagues have studied the behaviour in Asian honeybees (Apis cerana) in northern Vietnam. It’s the first time honeybees have been documented foraging for solids that aren’t plant-derived.

The bees are preyed upon by large hornets (Vespa soror), which launch group assaults that may kill hundreds of employee bees, typically ensuing within the lack of a complete colony. “If it will get dangerous sufficient, the bee colony abandons their house,” says Mattila.

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Asian honeybees use numerous defence methods in opposition to predators, together with hissing sounds, visible shows and enveloping intruders in a ball of bees till they overheat.

The researchers noticed three apiaries and located that the honeybees collected small balls from piles of animal dung – from chickens, pigs, cows and water buffalo – positioned close to the colonies. The bees transported the dung of their mouthparts and utilized it to spots near the doorway to their hives.

The behaviour occurred after visits or assaults by large hornets and continued for days afterwards even when the hornets didn’t return. Visits from Vespa velutina hornets – a smaller species that kill particular person bees however don’t assault en masse – didn’t elicit the behaviour.

Reasonable and heavy deposits of faeces at hive entrances lowered the incidence of group assaults by large hornets and diminished the probabilities of the hornets chewing on the entrances to create bigger openings.

The group has since heard reviews of the behaviour from beekeepers in different Asian nations, together with these past the place V. soror is discovered.

“It’s fairly probably that it is a extra widespread phenomenon than simply in Vietnam,” says Mattila.

It’s nonetheless unclear whether or not the animal faeces are inherently a deterrent to the enormous hornets or whether or not they include a specific compound that repels the bugs.

Journal reference: PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242668

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