Nature has the surprising power to always surprise us, and sometimes to disgust us. In this case, it is the bees. It turns out that these honey-producing insects use fecal matter on their hives in order to protect themselves from the threat of other insects.
A new technique to ward off predators
Unlike flies or larvae, bees are insects rarely associated with anything off-putting. Yet in this case, they are associated with feces. Fortunately, the fact that bees use fecal matter to decorate their hives is particularly effective in warding off their predators, namely hornets of the genus Vespa. This unusual behavior was observed by a team of researchers in Vietnam. During the study, researchers were able to observe Asian honey bees buzzing in front of piles of animal droppings.
The bees were then seen putting piles of droppings into their mouths and depositing it in front of the entrances to their hives. Such a method is completely new, especially for bees, which are renowned for their excellent hygiene. ” I was shocked because bees have such a good reputation for hygiene. They have homes that are always warm, humid, conducive to the spread of disease, and full of babies and food. », Explained the professor Heather mattila, lead author of the study, at The Guardian.
For now, scientists are not sure exactly how or why the droppings can act as a repellant against giant hornets. Either way, researchers have a few theories on the subject. One of them suggests that the hornets are simply repelled by the bad smell, with the view that these predatory insects are looking for a clean meal. Another hypothesis being that the smell of the excrement masks the normally attractive odor of the colony, as well as the chemical markers previously left by the hornets. The excrements then serve as a kind of olfactory camouflage device. More information on the subject is set out in the study report published in the review Plos One.
A method that is unfortunately not applied by European bees
In all cases, the technique was found to be effective. The more excrement there was in front of the hives, the less they were attacked by hornets. According to scientists’ observations, hornets spend 94% less time in beehives where the entrances are adorned with balls of poop. Note that bees already have a large number of strategies to fight against giant hornets. ” The use of animal dung by Asian honey bees showcases the impressive suite of weapons they have developed to defend their colonies against one of their most dangerous predators The study authors said in a statement.
The researchers also noted that, so far, this evolutionary behavior to combat predators has only been observed in the Asian species. Apis cerana. According to the professor Mattila, this is explained by the fact that bees in Europe and North America have not yet had the opportunity to develop their defense. However, this technique would be useful to them insofar as western bees are particularly vulnerable to attacks from hornets. In France, the Asian hornet is also considered to be one of the main causes of excess bee mortality. Currently, scientists are continuing their research to determine how this method could also be used to protect western bees, reported National Geographic.