An Overview of the Defense System of Bees

Bees are social insects, existing in colonies. Some live in solitude where a fertile female bee builds her nest but does not manufacture honey or beeswax. A good example is the orchard mason bee. A colony of bees is comprised of the queen bee, worker bee and the drone.

Bees have developed certain defense mechanisms so as to protect themselves from danger. Their sworn enemies are known to be hornets who hunt them down in order to feed their offspring. These are some of the ways bees counter-attack in times of trial.

Stinging: A swarm of bees, when provoked, can kill predators by their sting. The disadvantage of this method of protection is that bees endowed with barbed stingers lose their lives.  When bees sting they die instantly. The reason behind this is that the barbed stinger gets attached to their victims, causing their abdomen to be torn from the rest of the body.

Asphyxia-balling: Scientists have discovered that this method is practiced by Cyprian honeybees when mobbing oriental hornets. Hornets breathe via holes in their abdomen. The bee balls formed weighs down the abdomen cutting the supply of air necessary for its enemy to breathe, with the end result being death due to suffocation.

Thermo-balling: This can be witnessed when Asian bees, particularly the Japanese honey bees attack hornets.  When a hornet invades the nest, the entire colony forms a ball by engulfing the intruder and heating it up with extreme high temperatures via muscles vibrations. The end result is death, and victory for the bees. Thermo-balling has no effect on hornets living in warmer countries as these creatures can withstand very high temperatures. Instead honeybees use asphyxia-balling as explained above.

Entombing hives: Bees entomb hives in order to protect their habitat and its contents from pesticides. Entombing involves the stuffing of hive cells with pollen. Pollen grains that are stained with pesticides are also sealed off. Entombing is done to protect hives from pesticides. It may also be carried out to shield off the cold during winter.

The above defensive systems for bees play an important role in ensuring their survival. They are useful to man, plants and animals. For instance, man rears honeybees in hives for honey and beeswax. Plants require bees during the process of pollination. However, some of them are destructive. The carpenter bees have the ability to drill woods so as to lay eggs and keep their young ones safe from harm.

Scientists: Honeybees ‘Entomb’ Hives To Protect Themselves Against Pesticides