The number one rule when running away from a swarm of bees: don’t try to hide underwater! Bees have enough memory and motivation to wait for you at the surface, and they can wait much longer than you can hold your breath. That’s because bees are highly evolved and rather intelligent. Bees might have a very small brain, but recent research proves that they can even identify the differences between 2 human faces.
Turns out bees have a solid memory and recognition skills, which are clearly how European honeybees have adapted a clever plan for fighting off the Japanese giant hornet.
It only takes one minute for a single Japanese giant hornet to kill 40 honeybees. A small swarm of them can take down an entire colony in minutes. For this reason honeybees have had to find a way to adapt and survive against the fierce nature of the giant wasp. Due to this challenge, European honeybees have an extra special talent; they can fight off hornets with a very intelligent group trick.
The Japanese giant hornet has vicious sets of teeth that can easily rip apart a string of honeybees in seconds. It does bees no good to attack the hornet by stinging or biting. Instead, they group together and slowly roast the intruding hornet alive.
In an awesome National Geographic video (see bottom of post) you can actually watch a Japanese giant hornet staking out a nest of bees. The huge hornet approaches the tree hive cautiously, and likely with much excitement–after all, she has just discovered a meal for her and her family of hornets.
Even as the hornet approaches, the bees keep calm, they know what to do. Undaunted by the presence of their enemy stinger, the bees actually lure the hornet into their nest. Over the years the honeybees have adapted a unique way of fighting back against the hornets.
Once inside, the hornet thinks she has found easy prey and will spray a layer of pheromones all over the bees so that her and her sisters will be able to find the nest later when they come in for the kill. The bees pretend not to notice, waiting until the very last moment possible to fight back.
Just before kill time, the bees communicate with one another by swinging their backsides side to side, this signals a specified plan of action, which literally entails roasting the wasp alive. The bees allow the hornet to go about his or her business before retaliating.
In the video, the moment the hornet grabs hold of a nearby bee, all of the bees suddenly swarm to attention, surrounding the hornet so quick it doesn’t have a chance to get away.
Hundreds of bees group together, tightly huddled around the hornet. Then, they all begin to vibrate, producing a heat that reaches 117 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures hot enough to kill the wasp. Pictured below, infrared imaging of the bees swarming the hornet.
While the Japanese giant wasp can only withstand temperatures of 115 degrees, honeybees can withstand heat as hot as 119 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, the wasp is forced to die, while most of the bees can live–that is those that are not attacked beforehand by the wrath of the wasp.
Since the hornet is killed by the pack of bees, it can’t go back to its hungry hornet friends and reveal the location of the bee hive. As the wasp dies, so too does the chance the secret location of their home will be revealed, and the entire hive killed. This clever tactic saves the whole colony, all for the price of one wasp.
Watch this hornet be roasted alive by honey bees in the National Geographic video footage below: