'Vulture Bees' Have Developed a Taste For Rotting Flesh - And Scientists Are Stumped

A group of scientists hanging chunks of chicken from trees in Costa Rica on a bike ride. They were trying to catch a bee.

Slowly, over the next five days, large bees with long, dangling legs came to the bait. They used special teeth to slice off bits of meat. The flesh was gathered in baskets on their hind legs, where other bees could collect the pollen or eat it.

The bees were going to take the chicken back to their hive, where they would keep the meat in thepods for two weeks, then give it to their babies. Scientists don't know what happens inside thepods during those two weeks. Adults don't need to eat a lot of food. They survive on water.

The bees are in Costa Rica. Quinn McFrederick is an employee of UCR.

The bees with leg baskets still collect pollen. The three bee species that feed on carrion-based diet are not the only ones. They're called "vulture bees."

Jessica Maccaro, a PhD student in entomology at the University of California, Riverside, told Insider that the bees are crazy.

The easiest way to think about bees is that they are vegetarian. They were evolved from beings. Maccaro said that they're vegetarian, which differentiates them from the other insects. This is really surprising.

The wasp eats meat that has been killed. Infections can be caused by germs that overtake the body and produce toxins as they compete for meat. Some of the germs can be deadly.

Maccaro said that the environment on a dead body is toxic. It's a major thing to overcome to be able to eat.

Maccaro's colleagues baited and captured these bees to learn how they can eat carrion. The researchers discovered that the guts of vulture bees may be more similar to actual vultures or hyenas.

They published their findings in the American Society of Microbiologists journal.

The weird things in the world are where a lot of interesting discoveries can be found, according to an entomologist. There's a lot of information about the outcomes of natural selection.

The white-backed vulture is in Africa. The CC BY-SA 3.0 is based on Yathin.

vulture bees may be able to fight diseases on rotting meat.

The bees that were attracted to the chicken bait collected both meat and pollen.

Some bees that only feed on pollen were captured by the researchers. They were able to compare the guts of bees.

The guts were different from each other. The vulture bees have a lot of acid-causing bacteria, which makes them more acidic than their pollen-eating cousins. It might help them fight the toxins that form on rotting flesh.

McFrederick said in the press release that the bacteria are similar to ones found in actual vultures, as well as hyenas and other carrion-feeders, presumably to help protect them from pathogens that show up on carrion.

The guts' acid produced by the vulture and hyenas is on their own. Maccaro knew that the vulture bees were dependent onbacteria. bees use microbes to line their guts, protect them from parasites, and break down their food

"We can see that the bees are very important for all of the basic functions that we do ourselves," Maccaro said. This is another example where they're using their microbiome to create acidic environments.

Maccaro and her colleagues hope to find two of the three bee species that only gather carrion in French Guiana. They want to know what happens when vulture bees store meat in thepods.

They store them and seal them and they don't touch them for two weeks and then they can eat the meat. We're curious about what's happening.

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