Biologists described the sounds as distressing, distinct and loud.
Researchers were in Vietnam to study giant hornets and honeybees. They also recorded the frenetic sounds that honeybees made when giant hornets attacked their hives. This incredible species was incorrectly and regrettably called "murderhornet" in America. Royal Society Open Science published the first ever documentation of these primal sounds. It reveals how honeybees react to the threat from the largest wasps in all of history. It's an unusual wild, dramatic event that occurs in Asia.
These sounds are called "antipredator pipe" and are distinct from other honey bee buzzes. These sounds are like an alarm.
Heather Mattila, an associate professor in biological sciences at Wellesley College, said that the bees are responding to a "pressing threat". She is also the author of the new research. The bees create these very noticeable anti-predator pipes when large hornets appear.
"They are responding to a pressing danger."
You can hear the pipes in the 2013 footage. They sound similar to the shrieks and screams of mammals and other social animals under duress. Mattila noted that animals who live in groups are more likely to share information about predators. "Flocks and groups work together to stay informed about danger.
The "pipes" were not the only thing that was conspicuously visible. The biologists analysed over 30,000 communication signals recorded from Vietnam and found that the bees' "chatter" increased eightfold when they were confronted by the giant hornets. Mattila said, "When the giant hornets appear, the bees really ramp up that communication."
This buzzing sound is created by bees vibrating their wings and muscles at the thorax. These vibrations travel through the legs of the bees, through their hive and are then picked up by other bees. These unique sounds are heard by humans, but the bees can feel them.
They react. The bees then respond by going outside to confront the threat. They are so big that even a handful of bees won't intimidate the giant hornets. Honey bees are capable of defending themselves if they are in large numbers. They can use feces to cover their entrances, and put animal dung on the walls of their hives. This repels hornets. Many hundreds of bees can form a "beeball" around a Hornet, where they beat their wings furiously and generate heat.
Mattila said, "They'll choke on it and heat it to death." (Though it isn't known if the piping drives bees to defense or if it's mostly an alarm system.
Although the battles between these two species of insect might seem violent and intense from a human perspective, these natural events are common in nature. Both species fill important roles in nature, especially by pollinating plants and promoting biodiversity. Giant hornets are often maligned because they were introduced to America from Asia by humans. The media gave them a wrong name. They are an integral part of the world in their native country.
Mattila said that "Hornets, wasps in general, are amazing pollinators." "Insects deserve to be respected for their role."