The Japanese honeybee, Apis cerana japonica Radoszkowski, uses unique generation of heat by bee-balling to defend against, overheat and kill predacious Japanese hornets. We have now observed the European honeybee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus, using similar bee-balling behavior and heat generation against the Japanese yellow hornet, Vespa simillima xanthoptera Cameron. We monitored temperatures in the center of the bee-ball and inside thoracic muscles of the captured hornet and found that the thoracic internal temperature (45.8 ± 2.32°C) was higher than that of the bee-ball (44.0 ± 0.96°C).
Until recently it was thought that only Japanese honeybees could make defensive bee-balls. Japanese yellow hornets, and their cousin the Asian hornet, are bee massacre specialists. A few dozen hornets can slaughter more than 30,000 bees in a few hours, leaving behind a mound of dismembered heads, wings and legs. When a hornet attacks, hundreds of bees respond, smothering the inch-long marauder with their own intimate version of burn-it-with-fire, roasting the hornet alive at over 114°F/45.8°C.
The European bees probably picked it up by watching the bee bee see…