Unusual thermal defence by a honeybee against mass attack by hornets

Abstract

THE giant hornet Vespa mandarinia japonica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) is the only hornet species known to have evolved en masse predation of other social bees and wasps. Here we show that hornets is initiated by secretion of a foraging-site marking pheromone from the van der Vecht glands (metasomal sternum VI glands) by a single foraging hornet. The lone hornet rubs the basal tuft of the terminal gastral sternite around a prey food resource, such as a honeybee colony, and the hornet nestmates then congregate and attack the marked site en masse. The sympatric Japanese honeybee Apis cerana japonica (Hymenoptera: Apidae) can detect the hornet marking pheronome, and responds by increasing the number of defenders at the nest entrance. When an invading hornet is captured by a defending bee, more than 500 other bees quickly engulf the hornet in a ball which contains isoamyl acetate. Thermography showed that the ball temperature is very high (˜47 °C), which proves lethal to the hornet but not to the bees. Defenders patrolling the nest entrance also generate high temperatures. These findings suggest that aspects of the interaction between V. mandarinia japonica and A. cerana japonica are specifically coevolved.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Okada, I. Bull. Fac. Agr. Tamagawa Univ. 2, 73–89 (1961) (in Japanese with English summary).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Matsuura, M. & Sakagami, S. F. J. Fac. Sci. Hokkaido Univ. VI Zool. 9, 125–162 (1973).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Jeanne, R. L. Science 168, 1465–1466 (1970).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Kojima, J. Insectes soc. 40, 403–421 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Ono, M., Okada, I. & Sasaki, M. Experientia 43, 1031–1032 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Free, J. B. Pheromones of Social Bees (Chapman & Hall, London, 1987).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Wilson, E. O. Science 190, 798–800 (1975).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Wilson, E. O. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 1, 63–81 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Stabentheiner, A. in The Behaviour and Physiology of Bees (eds Goodman, L. J. & Fisher, R. C.) 89–101 (CAB International, Wallingford, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ono, M., Igarashi, T., Ohno, E. et al. Unusual thermal defence by a honeybee against mass attack by hornets . Nature 377, 334–336 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1038/377334a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing