Watch these bees brutally slow cook a murder hornet

Dan Broadbent

Japanese bees have developed an insanely brutal way to take care of murder hornets.

By now, you've undoubtedly heard about so-called murder hornets (the Asian giant hornet, or Vespa mandarinia) being observed in North America.

The word "hornet" is scary enough on its own, so adding "murder" to it just feels like overkill.

But as a Canadian bee expert pointed out, the hype about murder hornets might be a bit overblown. CBC reports:

"It's a very formidable character. They are very fierce but very few. They are not overrunning the landscape out here. That is simply not going to happen," said provincial apiculturist Paul van Westendorp.

He doesn't advocate panic and suggests people leave the hornets alone.

"These hornets are not interested in us, but they can cause quite a bit of problems if their nests are disturbed," he said.

The Nanaimo nest of about 200 hornets was destroyed. A single hornet showed up in White Rock last November. A few weeks later, two individual hornets were found in Blaine, Wash.

"That strongly suggested there was a nest," said van Westendorp.

He said scientists are working hard to make sure the hornet — or its sister species, an impressive six-centimetre queen that showed up in a North Vancouver office last May — do not establish in B.C.

My takeaway is that yes, this is concerning, but no, it's not something the average person needs to worry about since you probably have enough to worry about already.

Nevertheless, these hornets can easily wipe out an entire hive of bees without even thinking twice about it, and as an invasive species in North America, local bees don't have any defenses against them.

Enter: Japanese bees.

Live Science reports:

The Japanese honeybee and the giant hornet are waging an epic war. The hornets, which can grow up to 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) long, attack the nests of the bees, and the honeybees will surround a hornet and “cook” it.

The honeybees’ stingers can’t penetrate a hornet’s thick outer skin, so the bees swarm around an attacker instead, forming a spherical bee ball, and use their vibrating flight muscles to create heat. The mass of bees will heat the area up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius), enough to kill the hornet.

In the video below, the bees don't initially attack the hornet, and instead lure it inside their hive. Once the hornet catches a bee, the fight is on.

The bees swarm the hornet, and the vibrations from their movement create heat. A lot of heat. The hornet's heat tolerance is about 44° C (111° F), however the bees' tolerance is 46° C (114° F). This small difference is ample to basically cook the hornet, slow cooking it in a "hot defensive bee ball." (2020 has had a lot of previously unsaid sentences in human history already, but "hot defensive bee ball" is probably one of my favorite phrases.)


Unfortunately, this behavior has not been observed with honeybees here in North America. So the next time you're out and see a bee, show them this video so they can learn how to handle these things.

Because as it currently stands, they're just hunkering down and hoarding supplies. 😉

Cover image via Twitter screenshot


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