Bees use poop as a weapon against deadly killer wasps

Giant hornets attack a hive that is not protected by manure.

Heather mattila

In the USA, The killer hornets have scared us enough, But those invading giant Asian hornets pose a threat to bees too. In Vietnam, some bees discovered a powerful defense against a dangerous predator: animal feces.

A study conducted in Vietnam by researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada documented the use of tools by bees for the first time. The tool turns out to be poop with a purpose. It turns out that the manure deters the giant hornets from invading the bee hives.

The team published their findings in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday. “Our study describes a remarkable weapon in the already sophisticated portfolio of defenses that bees have developed in response to the predatory threats they face,” the paper said.

Killer hornets are known for staging coordinated attacks on bee hives where they kill adult residents and take the baby bees away for food.

A bee in Vietnam holds a piece of manure with its mouths.

Heather mattila

The researchers documented how Vietnamese bees collected feces and spread it around the entrances to their hives. In one experiment, the researchers found that bees preferred to collect extra-smelly manure from pigs and chickens when they had the opportunity.

“Hornets spent less than half the time at nest entrances with a moderate to heavy manure stain than in hives with few stains, and they spent only a tenth of the time chewing on hive entrances to get to breeding bees. “the university said in a statement Wednesday.

The team considers this behavior to be the use of a tool because it involves using an object in the environment for a purpose and that the bees mold the manure with their mouths. Why manure works to protect you from hornets remains an open question. The scent can act as a repellent or it can hide bee odors that attract hornets.

Killer hornets have been a particular concern in North America because of the threat they pose to bee populations. Bees in Canada and the US may not have the same tool-using skills as their cousins ​​in Vietnam. “They haven’t had a chance to develop defenses. It’s like catching a war cold,” said lead author Heather Mattila.

Washington State Authorities destroyed a killer hornet’s nest in October, but there could be more out there. Hornets are a clear threat to bees, but also a concern for humans. Study co-author Gard Otis said: “I got stung by one and it was the most excruciating pain of my life.”