Museum of Science and Industry


Hot Bee Ball of Death

By Andy
April 06, 2012

One of the most humiliating ways to die is to be snuggled to death by bees. This is true whatever your species, but it is most common for the giant Asian hornet, whose tough exo-skeleton is so thick that their rival Japanese honeybees cannot sting them. Instead, the bees swarm around the unfortunate hornet and beat their flight muscles until their combined body heat raises the internal temperature of the ball to 47° Celsius (116° F), smothering the invader in a deadly cuddle. Interestingly, recent research shows that the bees’ neural activity picks up during the attack.

What’s going on here? We don't know yet! The bees could be responding to an increase in the temperature of nearby bees, or there could be some deeper form of communication between them that we're not aware of yet. Is it that the bees have a crush on the hornet, and are all competing to try and cover the hornet in tiny bee kisses? How sad, if so.

Image: iStockphoto

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Museum of Science+Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
1 (773) 684-1414
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