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Japanese honeybees swarm huge hornet predator to kill it with heat

Date:
March 14, 2012
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Japanese honeybees face a formidable foe in the Asian giant hornet, a fierce predator that can reach 40mm long or larger, but the bees have developed a novel defense mechanism: they create a "hot defensive bee ball," swarming around the hornet and literally cooking it. Now, a new study uncovers some of the neural activity that underlies this unusual behavior, which is not practiced by the Japanese honeybee’s European relative.

Japanese honeybees face a formidable foe in the Asian giant hornet, a fierce predator that can reach 40mm long or larger, but the bees have developed a novel defense mechanism: they create a “hot defensive bee ball,” swarming around the hornet and literally cooking it.

Now, a new study published Mar. 14 in the open access journal PLoS ONE uncovers some of the neural activity that underlies this unusual behavior, which is not practiced by the Japanese honeybee’s European relative.

The researchers, including Takeo Kubo of the University of Tokyo and Masato Ono of Tamagawa University, actually sampled honeybees as they were engaged in a hot defensive bee ball, plucking them off the ball at different time points to investigate the brain function behind this unique adaptive behavior.

Using a novel marker gene to detect the neural activity evoked in the brains of the honeybees that form the bee ball, they found that neurons that make up the higher brain center are active while the bees are part of the hot ball. This neural activity differs from that seen in European honeybees.


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The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Atsushi Ugajin, Taketoshi Kiya, Takekazu Kunieda, Masato Ono, Tadaharu Yoshida, Takeo Kubo. Detection of Neural Activity in the Brains of Japanese Honeybee Workers during the Formation of a “Hot Defensive Bee Ball”. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (3): e32902 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032902

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Japanese honeybees swarm huge hornet predator to kill it with heat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314172306.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2012, March 14). Japanese honeybees swarm huge hornet predator to kill it with heat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314172306.htm
Public Library of Science. "Japanese honeybees swarm huge hornet predator to kill it with heat." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314172306.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

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