As their ability to organize and produce honey already proves, honey bees are incredible resourceful and it’s not mere coincidence that they are still here with us today but rather the result of amazing evolution. Today I want to focus on some of the defensive techniques they use:
Swarming – The power in numbers
Honey bees are protective of their hives so it might be that they follow you or buzz around your head if you wander too close to it. They are letting you know that you are considered a threat.
Well, that is of course, depending on the species of honey bee, as some might prove more aggressive than others.
Moving around in large numbers though, is something that honey bees only do when exiting the hive in panic mode which usually happens for one of the following reasons:
- Looking for a new hive (as Alvaro explained in his post)
- Being under attack
For the bees to exit the hive in big numbers, alert/danger pheromones must have been produced beforehand in which case, you can be sure they won’t be in a good mood. A swarm is something not to be taken lightly, as it implies the potential of hundreds or thousands of poisonous stingers ending in the attacker’s body. While a few stings might not be lethal unless having an allergy, a thousand will.
Screaming – The war call
When being attacked by giant hornets, Bees have been found to produce a sound by vibrating their wings or thorax, elevating their abdomens and exposing a gland to release a pheromone.
It’s a sound compound of rapid bursts of hard and noisy high-pitched sounds that change frequency unpredictably. These signs seem to be a rallying call for collective defence giving courage to each other to take action.
Stinging – The shiny sword each female bee carries!
You will probably have heard that honey bees die after stinging once. Well, that is only true in specific cases, more accurately, with mammals (category in which Humans fall) due to their skin. However, of all the different bee species, the honey bee is the only bee that has evolved with a barbed stinger. Why?
The reason for this is that when they sting a mammal, the stinger, attached to a part of their abdomen, is left behind, continuing to pump poison (apitoxin) into their victim for up to 10 minutes and causing an IMMENSE growing pain.
As you might know already, a honey bee hive’s survival depends on their stored honey, so evolving a specific defense mechanism for big animals like rodents, honey badgers and bears was a must.
Caption picture “Bee Knight” by: https://twitter.com/nmrbk – Super Cool Artist. Go check it out!