Bee News

Giant Honeybees exhibit special behavior to repel predators

The Giant Honeybee nest forms on a branchUnlike the honeybees that beekeepers keep in their hives in order to collect honey, the Giant Honeybee has evolved a special defense mechanism to defend their open-air hives from birds and hornets.

Against predatory wasps, including hornets, they display highly coordinated Mexican wave-like cascades termed ‘shimmering’. Shimmering starts at distinct spots on the nest surface and then spreads across the nest within a split second whereby hundreds of individual bees flip their abdomens upwards.

These wave-like figures are ineffective to stop larger predators such as birds or mammals from feeding directly from the Giant honeybees’ nests. Field observations suggest that shimmering is provoked especially by wasps. However, the evolutionary role of shimmering and, in particular, its significance as a defense behavior are so far only hypothesized, and the precise relationship between Giant honeybees and potential predators regarding shimmering is not understood.

Read more here: Social Waves in Giant Honeybees Repel Hornets