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Jennifer Ouellette-November 10, 2021 at 12:01 AM UTC
According to a new paper published in the journal "Royal Society Open Science", the Asian honeybee (Apis cerana) issued a unique alarm sound to alert hive members to the attack of giant "killer wasps". Scientists at Wellesley College recorded these so-called "anti-predator pipes" for the first time. They were the horns for hive members to launch defensive exercises. You can hear samples of bees being attacked by bumblebees in the (quite disturbing) video embedded above.
"[Antipredator] pipes share the same characteristics as the warning signs of many mammals, so when mammals hear them, they can immediately recognize something to convey the danger," Heather Ma, co-author of Wellesley College Tila said that he said the alarm, when she heard the signal for the first time, she shuddered. "It feels like a universal experience."
As I wrote before, after November 2019, the so-called murder of the bumblebee quickly became infamous when Ted McFall, a beekeeper in Blaine, Washington, was horrified to find thousands of incomplete tiny pieces scattered on the ground. Corpse-his entire colony of bees was brutally beheaded. The culprit: Vespa mandarinia, an Asian giant hornet, is native to Southeast Asia and parts of the Russian Far East. Somehow, these so-called "killer wasps" have found their way to the Pacific Northwest, and now they pose a terrible ecological threat to the North American bee population.
There are other species of Asian hornet. They are top predators with huge mandibles, which are used to tear off the head of the prey and take out the delicious breasts (including the muscles that provide flight and movement power for the wings of bees). One bumblebee can kill 20 bees in one minute, and one hand can kill 30,000 bees in 90 minutes. Bumblebees have a poisonous and extremely painful sting-its sting is long enough to pierce traditional beekeeping clothes. Although Asian honeybees have evolved the ability to defend against bumblebees, North American honeybees have not yet, as the slaughter of the McFall colony clearly shows.
Matilla has been studying honeybees for 25 years and is fascinated by their organization and communication skills. In 2013, he turned his attention to Asian honeybees. "They evolved in a more terrifying predator environment," she told Ars, pointing to 22 known bumblebee species in Asia that are particularly hot regions of the world. Many of these species rely on insects such as bees to develop their colonies, so they are one of the most ruthless predators of bees. The deadliest are the giant hornet (also known as "murder hornet"), because they attack the hives in groups.
"As a human being, I think it is fundamentally attractive to understand the interaction between predators and prey," Matilla said. "Humans are both predators and prey, depending on the situation, so we evolve in an environment similar to bees. We can recognize their plight in front of giant hornets."
Last year, Matilla and her team recorded the first example of Vietnamese bees using tools. Researchers have discovered that Asian honeybees feed on animal feces and use it to line the entrance of the hive-a practice called "feces detection." It is a chemical weapon against bumblebees. Mattila and her team found that the chance of a bumblebee landing or biting into a hive with an animal feces inlet is much less likely.
When Matilla and her team were conducting fecal research in Vietnam, they noticed that the noise level in the hive increased sharply whenever the bumblebee approached. "We can hear the sound of bees from a few feet away," she said. "So we started putting microphones in the colony so that we could eavesdrop on them." They also made a lot of videos of the activities of the local beekeeper's apiary.
In the end, they collected about 30,000 signals emitted by bees in 1,300 minutes, and then converted these sounds into spectrograms for analysis. Bees emit a surprisingly complex array of sounds, which they perceive as the movement of air particles they detect with their antennae, or the vibrations they detect through special organs on their legs. Therefore, the bee signal is "vibrating sound" and is transmitted in the form of airborne sound and vibration in the bee colony.
Matila said, for example, when all bees lower their bodies and move their wings almost simultaneously, they usually hiss at the same time. They are constantly hissing, but this is especially true when bumblebees are present, and the exact purpose of the hissing is not fully understood.
"The hiss of other animals is often used to intimidate predators, but bees are unlikely to do so, mainly because they also hiss when there are no predators," Matilla said. "An idea that has been proposed (not by us) is that the hissing sound helps to temporarily calm the swarm, because the bees stay still after they make a hissing sound. If most bees stop moving for a second, this May help workers perceive other sounds in the nest."
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