Asian honeybees produce what has been described as a disturbing scream-like sound when their hive is attacked by big hornets
10 November 2021
A frenzied alarm sign produced by a sort of Asian honeybee throughout an enormous hornet assault has been recognized for the primary time.
Hornets are Asian honeybees’ most devastating predators and may wipe out complete colonies. Heather Mattila at Wellesley Faculty in Massachusetts and her colleagues recorded sounds inside hives containing Asian honeybees (Apis cerana) as they got here underneath assault both by a sort of big hornet (Vespa soror) associated to the notorious “homicide” hornet (Vespa mandarinia), or a smaller hornet species (Vespa velutina). The staff additionally recorded sounds from the hives within the absence of predators.
In whole, the researchers captured practically 30,000 bee indicators in additional than 1300 minutes of recording, from three beekeeping yards in Hanoi, Vietnam.
By analysing photos of the sound patterns, the staff found that bees produce a beforehand undescribed set of harsh and irregular noises that may change quickly in frequency when big hornets, however not smaller hornets, arrive on the hive. They named these indicators “antipredator pipes”. No such sounds had been detected within the absence of threats.
“I discovered it actually disturbing. If you analyse the recordings, a part of you is scared for the bees, and a part of you is so excited for a way uncommon these sounds had been,” says Mattila.
The acoustic properties are similar to alarm shrieks and worry screams made by different animals like primates and birds, says Mattila.
Utilizing cameras to movie the hive entrances, the staff discovered that the antipredator pipes appeared to rally extra bees to the hive entrance. As soon as right here, the bees positioned extra animal dung round colony entrances, a behaviour recognized to discourage hornets. The arrival of smaller hornets didn’t result in elevated dung-depositing by the bees.
The findings counsel antipredator pipes can convey explicit sorts of menace to different bees within the colony, which “hear” the calls via vibrations of their legs, and assist assist predator-specific defences.
The staff seen that the bees raised their abdomens and buzzed their wings to make the antipredator pipes whereas operating round in what seemed to be frantic paths.
In future, the staff hopes to play again the alarm indicators inside hives to higher perceive what info the bee screams convey and the way particular person bees reply.
“This examine is of nice worth in that it scientifically demonstrated that honeybees have recognized the attributes of their pure enemies and developed acoustic alarm indicators,” says Masato Ono at Tamagawa College in Japan. “It is usually a really fascinating convergent evolution to indicate that it shares factors with the acoustic properties of mammalian horror.”
Journal reference: Royal Society Open Science, DOI: 10.1098/rsos.211215
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