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Cool Japan / Japanese honeybees cook enemy in 'hot defensive bee ball'

Japanese honeybees cook enemy in 'hot defensive bee ball'
(A hornet is attacked by honeybees)

When confronted with their arch-enemy, the aggressive giant Asian hornet, the honeybees will attack it by swarming en masse around the hornet and forming what scientists call a "hot defensive bee ball" - a move unique to their species. With up to 500 bees all vibrating their flight muscles at once, the bee ball cooks the hornet to death. While this defensive manoeuvre has been known for some time, the mechanism behind it has been shrouded in mystery. But researchers at Japan's University of Tokyo, through study of the bees' brains, have now found that neural activity in bees taking part in the attack picks up.

"When the hornet, the Japanese honeybee's natural enemy, enters a colony, the bees quickly form a 'hot defensive bee ball,' trapping the hornet inside and heating it up to 46 degrees C (115F) with their collective body heat," said Atsushi Ugajin, a University of Tokyo graduate student.
He said that while the high temperature phase lasts about 20 minutes, it often takes up to an hour before the hornet dies inside the ball.

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.
They were also surprised that the bees used perfectly coordinated teamwork during the process, said Takeo Kubo, a professor at the University of Tokyo graduate school.
(telegraph.co.uk, Mar 30)
Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9173498/Japanese-honeybees-cook-enemy-in-hot-defensive-bee-ball.html

By TS on Apr 20, 2012
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