If you think of classic arch-enemies in the world of mother nature, then you have to think of honeybees and hornets being one of the biggest. Hornets storm into honey bee nests and kill them, to take the home to feed their young. And the attacks can be devastating, count hornets will drop a hormone in the nest which releases a scent that attracts them all to the target. In this way, about 30 hornets are able to destroy whole colonies of thousands of bees in just a couple of hours.
When bees are attacked they normally result in stinging their attacker, however, this doesn’t work on Hornets due to their hard exoskeleton exterior. When it comes to defending the nest from hornets, they have to adopt a whole different strategy. And it is a scary one.
Scientifically speaking the strategy is called thermo-balling, but essentially the bees use their superior numbers to cook the hornet alive. As soon as they detect a hornet that is marking the nest with its pheromone hormone, they engulf him completely. Around 500 bees total will cover the hornet and all start to vibrate. The vibrations cause the temperature to rise considerably, and the bees being much smaller are able to resist. The mob of bees is able to create a temperature of up to 47 degrees Celsius, which is a deadly and lethal temperature for a hornet.
But of course not every hornet simply dies to a rise in temperature, there is also the oriental hornet, which is used to tropical and warm temperatures. In these cases, the mob of bees simply keep up the pressure on their abdomen and suffocate the hornet to death.
The genetic mechanism is also called the hot defensive bee ball, an interesting development of how mother nature develops and always finds a way to survive. The little honey bee figures out a way to defend itself from what in their eyes is a giant of a predator, the Japanese hornet.