Sep
20
2007

My new obsession: killer honeybees

Bees attempt to asphyxia-ball a man: Little do they know that he breathes through his thighs.  (image courtesy of Max xx on flickr.com)
Bees attempt to asphyxia-ball a man: Little do they know that he breathes through his thighs. (image courtesy of Max xx on flickr.com)
I tend to get “stuck” on things. You know, mentally.

Like, when Pokemon were big, I had to “catch ‘em all.” I’d fall asleep at night, just thinking how to catch all those Pokemon. Should I lure them into clever traps, or subdue them with a water-based attack? Or should I just go out and buy them?

Or “connect-the-dots”? You do one connect-the-dots puzzle, and tell me you aren’t totally hooked.

Lately, though, I’ve constantly been thinking about the weird and violent things insects do. How could I not? I mean, it’s all over the news - the other day there was the story about fire ants eating baby birds, and today I learn that it’s just been discovered that some honeybees kill their enemies by suffocating them.

I know! Who would have thought? But French scientists have observed Cyprian honeybees mobbing their archenemy, the Oriental hornet, in such a way that they block its breathing passages. The hornets’ exoskeletons are too hard for honeybee stingers to penetrate, so they seem to have adapted this new defensive behavior.

Certain Asian varieties of honeybees have been known to mob hornets and kill them simply by causing them to overheat inside a ball of bees (a behavior known as “thermo-balling”), but Cyprian honeybees are unable to raise their temperature enough to harm more heat tolerant hornets. Instead, they seem to specifically target the abdominal openings of the hornets, covering them with their own bodies, and preventing the hornets from breathing.

This is what we like to call “news you can use.” For a long time I’ve been relying on “thermo-balling” myself, wrapping myself around opponents in the hope that they might be vulnerable to a slight rise in body temperature. This technique almost never wins a fight, but, perhaps, if I could modify my behavior to be a little more like the Cyprian honeybee…

Anyway, that’s the sort of stuff that’s been on my mind lately. I fully expect the news tomorrow to reveal that beetles use nets to capture their prey, or that horseflies frequently resort to blackmail.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow thats nasty

posted on Thu, 09/20/2007 - 3:33pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

nasty thats so werid

posted on Thu, 09/20/2007 - 11:36pm

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