"Bee-balling," the act of Japanese honeybees surrounding an enemy wasp and then all vibrating their flight muscles to raise the internal temperature of the ball high enough to cook their enemy, has been known about for some time. And now researchers at the University of Tokyo believe that the bees may actually be using their brains to act collectively to take down the threat. Honey: it will never taste the same again.
Set off if bees posted as "guards" at the entrance to the colony detect an intruder, the move evolved because the bee's stingers aren't strong enough to penetrate the hornet's tough exoskeleton, researchers said.
The research team, whose latest research on the phenomenon appeared in the scientific journal PLoS ONE in mid-March, was astounded by the fact that the collective heat generated by the group, while fatal for the hornet, leaves the bees unaffected.
"When an outsider enters, the honeybees are immediately on their guard. Then, all at once, they gather to attack," he said.
"So, it isn't one commanding all the rest, we believe in this moment of emergency they're acting collectively."
I don't even know. Oh man -- remember when SPOILER: the little kid with the glasses got killed by all the bees in My Girl? That...was sad. I'm not saying I cried, but the next day I did take a flaming baseball bat to a beehive and almost die the same way. Learning lessons: third time's a charm for me (two days later I took a rake to a hornet's nest).
Hit the jump for a nature documentary video about the defense mechanism. And speaking of defense mechanisms -- curling up into a ball and crying "please don't kill me", amirite?
Thanks to Mox, who's the queen of the bee-balls and can even dribble between her legs and everything. Me? I always wind up bouncing the ball off my clubfoot then running to the locker room crying.