In this part of her series on raising bees, Cathy Isom lets you know about how bees defend themselves. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.
Honeybees tend to take excellent care of themselves, however, unlike most animals we care for, we have very little control over what happens when a busy bee leaves its hive in pursuit of pollen.
A honeybee’s primary defense mechanism is its ability to sting a predator, injecting a debilitating, sometimes deadly, venom. Amazingly, only female honeybees can deliver a sting to its enemies, and despite what most people believe, the bee does not die after stinging its attacker, unless it has stung a mammal with fleshy skin– such as a human.
The Japanese honeybee has come up with an ingenious way to kill larger insects that pose a threat to their hives, like the wasp. If an intruder is nearby, the honeybees will plot to ambush the unwanted visitor. Literally, they get together, hide, and then attack the intruder.
The bees attack the predator by forming a “bee ball” around it and begin flapping their wings to create an intolerable, deadly, environment for the predator. Heat and carbon monoxide from the rapid wing-flapping suffocate and kill the intruder. There is hope that this trait can be bred into other types of bees, but at this time, there has been little success.
Bees actually create their own entrance reducer with propolis— a strong mixture of wax, saliva, and sap. Honeybees have rarely been known to take this action on their own. Most of the reports of a bee-made reducer come after a manmade reducer has been removed.
I’m Cathy Isom…