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A flashy defense

There are many ways to ward off a predator, but perhaps none so enthusiastic as the Giant honeybee's team "wave." New research, linkurl:published this week;http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003141 in PLoS One, demonstrates that a communal motion called the shimmering effect, in which hundreds of bees successively flip their abdomens upwards in a rapid wave, protects a hive by startling wasps away. "People have known for a long time that the Asian species of honeybees do this shimmering,

By | September 10, 2008

There are many ways to ward off a predator, but perhaps none so enthusiastic as the Giant honeybee's team "wave." New research, linkurl:published this week;http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003141 in PLoS One, demonstrates that a communal motion called the shimmering effect, in which hundreds of bees successively flip their abdomens upwards in a rapid wave, protects a hive by startling wasps away. "People have known for a long time that the Asian species of honeybees do this shimmering," said linkurl:Michael Breed,;http://www.colorado.edu/eeb/faculty/fac_breed.html an ecologist at the University of Colorado who was not involved in the study, "but nobody ever looked in a detailed way at how the behavior is organized or its exact relationship to the wasp." First author linkurl:Gerald Kastberger;http://www.kfunigraz.ac.at/zoowww/personal/kastberger/biog.htm believed the shimmering effect (which looks something like a crowd of tiny sports fans doing the wave) was a defensive reaction to an approaching hornet. "Giant honeybees nest out in the open," said Kastberger, a zoologist at the University of Graz in Austria, "so they've been forced to develop defense strategies." To prove his intuition quantitatively, Kastberger's team filmed 450 interactions between Giant honeybees, Apis dorsata, and hornets, Vespa species, at two bee colonies at the University of Kathmandu in Nepal. Using frame by frame statistical analyses of the film, the researchers assessed the behavior of both predator and prey. Analysis of bee behavior showed the nearer a wasp came to the nest, the bigger and more forceful the bees' shimmering. Assessment of hornet behavior showed that shimmering causes wasps to turn from the nest and accelerate away. The nearer they came to the hive, the more the hornets were affected by the shimmering. You can watch Kastberger's videos of honeybee shimmering and hornet reactions linkurl:here.;http://www.kfunigraz.ac.at/zoowww/personal/kastberger/downl.htm "I'm impressed by the rigor of the analysis," said linkurl:Greg Hunt,;http://www.entm.purdue.edu/beehive/huntlab.html an entomologist at Purdue University in Indiana. "They've analyzed [the interaction] to the Nth degree." The paper is an important and unique addition to our knowledge about honeybee behavior, said Breed. "A lot of honeybee defensive behavior is oriented toward birds and mammals," who go after the hive itself as a food source, he said. Shimmering is directed at another insect, hornets, which are not trying to rob the combs but simply want to eat the bees. "It's a docile strategy," said Kastberger - it's good for the linkurl:honeybee;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/25318/ because it requires less energy than an attack flight and poses minimal risk to individuals.
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Comments

Avatar of: Ruth Rosin

Ruth Rosin

Posts: 117

September 10, 2008

Do the giant honeybees respond with a "shimmering" only to approaching wasps?
Avatar of: Jack Woodall

Jack Woodall

Posts: 13

September 10, 2008

The "wave" was shown impressively on metre-wide honeycombs covered with bees on cliffs in Nepal, in a BBC documentary last August. Check it out at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7552005.stm, click on the photo to enlarge it.

September 10, 2008

I really enjoyed this wonedrful story about defense mechanism of honey bee. Impressive information.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 24

September 11, 2008

Hardly novel is it? Anyone who has ever studied giant honeybees knew this already. Its just a case of a flashy analysis catching the eye of an editor at a 'good' publication, who was looking for a bit of dumb media attention. All spin and nothing new... as usual. Scientific publishing just gets dumber and dumber. This doesn't interest anyone, it just ends up as filler in the press and low grade tv. Is it any wonder that the public moan about the money wasted on science funding? What happened to the big ideas? Given our current predicament, all science funding should be invested in solving the world's problems. Lets hope the engineers are on the ball because science won't save us (and all other animals) from extinction.
Avatar of: Megan Scudellari

Megan Scudellari

Posts: 9

September 11, 2008

Hi Ruth,\n\nWhen I spoke with Dr. Kastberger, he said he easily provokes shimmering behavior when approaching a Giant honeybee colony, and other mammals and birds cause the behavior as well. However, one of the reasons he did the study was because shimmering seemed to be especially provoked by wasps.\n\nThanks for the question.\n\nMegan Scudellari\nEditorial Intern\nThe Scientist
Avatar of: Donald Duck

Donald Duck

Posts: 39

September 13, 2008

Anyone who reads this magazine expecting to find "hard science" is an idiot. Sign up for a real science magazine. This is the "National Inquirer", for those of us who read light material for fun, not "The Wall Street Journal". \n\nPersonally, I like the Scientist because I DON'T study bees, sharks, etc. I find the occasional interesting tidbit and look it up on wikipedia later. For me, this was new information. \n\nLove this magazine for what it is, or love an in-depth, subscription magazine. If you are serious, leave. If you are ready to relax and/or argue with me, I can honestly say you are welcome here.
Avatar of: Ram Sihag

Ram Sihag

Posts: 12

September 15, 2008

The shimmering behaviour of the giant honeybee team in the colony when a wasp predator approches is already known to the global Apidology Community.Since 1998 or even befopre that,such a video has been shown in several international conferences by Professor Woyke and Niko Koeniger.This behaviour could even be replicated by other physical disturbances.There is nothing knew in the study except the statistical analysis of the data(?).
Avatar of: Ruth Rosin

Ruth Rosin

Posts: 117

September 15, 2008

Thanks for answeing my duestion!

October 2, 2008

Dear Ram Sihag\n\nYou have delivered some opposing remarks. Would you please contact me personally by email? I am afraid I was not able to look you up in the Internet. I would like to explain to you what the new and fascinating finding of the article in PLoS ONE was. I assume that you have not at all read my research article, even not the introduction and discussion parts, otherwise you would have commented the article on a more realistic basis and in a more friendly way. \n\nRegards\nGerald Kastberger
Avatar of: Ram Sihag

Ram Sihag

Posts: 12

October 15, 2008

Dear Kastberger\nYou have admitted that the behaviour is known.That corroborates my views and perhapes is a sufficient explanation.What else would you like to tell, you are always welcome.\nMy E-mail :sihagrc@rediffmail.com

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