Monday, July 06, 2009

Now It's The Honeybees!

Bee Balls!

No, nothing like that, not an apiary version of "Hung", or anything like that.

More along the lines of violence, the self-defense kind.

Last week, we learned of ants taking over the world, so, this week, it's the attack option of honeybees, versus their predator, the hornet.

Honeybee mobs overpower hornets

Japanese honeybees form "bee balls" - mobbing and smothering the predators.

This has previously been referred to as "heat-balling", but a study has now shown that carbon dioxide also plays a role in its lethal effectiveness.

In the journal Naturwissenschaften, the scientists describe how hornets are killed within 10 minutes when they are trapped inside a ball of bees.

Japanese giant hornets, which can be up to 5cm long, are voracious predators that can devastate bees' nests and consume their larvae.

But, if the bees spot their attacker in time, they mount a powerful defence in the form of a bee ball. This study found that the heat inside the bee ball alone was not enough to reliably kill the hornets.


His team recreated experimental bee balls and took direct measurements from inside them.

They anaesthetised giant hornets and fixed them to the tip either of a thermometer probe, or the inlet of a gas detector.

Once the hornets recovered from their anaesthesia, the probes were touched to the bees' nest.

"The bee ball formed (around the hornet) immediately," said Dr Sakamoto.


As the temperature inside the ball increased to more than 45C, the carbon dioxide level also rose sharply.

In a parallel experiment, the scientists found that in an atmosphere relatively high in carbon dioxide, the temperature at which hornets could survive for 10 minutes was lowered.

"So we concluded that carbon dioxide produced inside the bee ball by the honeybees is a major factor, together with temperature, involved in the bees' defence."
Those Argentinian Ants better watch out ...

We better make the call, bring in a heavy-hitter;

TV theme song - Green Hornet

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