Ever felt unwelcome in a room full of locals? Be thankful you aren’t an Asian hornet entering a Japanese honeybee hive, as chances are you would be slowly cooked alive in a blazing hot bee ball.
This “hot defensive bee ball”, as scientists have termed it, is the result of roughly 500 Japanese honeybees forming a circle around their arch enemy, the Asian hornet, and slowly melting it to death in gangland fury.
The honeybees generate the heat by rapidly vibrating their muscles until the victim reaches approximately 46 degrees Celsius. This temperature is held for nearly 20 minutes, while the hornet takes around an hour to die.
This bona fide blistering bee ball is triggered when honeybee guards detect an outsider breaching the colony entrance.
Researchers at Japan’s University of Tokyo believe it evolved because the honeybee’s stinger wasn’t strong enough to penetrate the hornet’s tough exoskeleton. They also found the bee’s brains process and then respond to the hornet’s threat of attack.
Takeo Kubo, Professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate School, was flabbergasted the heat didn’t affect the honeybees. He also said he was surprised at the bees “perfectly coordinated teamwork”.
However, the team doesn’t think this brutal, ballet-like behaviour makes the honeybees any smarter, instead saying “it’s merely a matter of development in response to environmental factors”.
In any case, the editors at The Fox Gazette think an hour of sociability and exercise is a wonderfully healthy way to eliminate a towering tyrant like the Asian hornet, who has laid waste to so many honeybee hives in times gone by.