Honey Bees Use Pungent Poop to Stave off Giant Murder Hornet Attacks

Perhaps we should take a page out of the bees' book.
Fabienne Lang

One sure way to ward off most anything is by flinging poop at it. The smell alone is enough to keep most enemies at bay. 

It turns out that giant Asian murder hornets are no different, steering clear of anything covered in feces. And it also turns out that Asian honeybees have turned this into a self-defense mechanism.

A University of Guelph study discovered that these little bees have adapted to smear water buffalo poop on the entrances of their hives to keep Asian hornets away — and it works!

The study was published in PLOS ONE on Wednesday.


The University of Guelph team, led by Gard Otis, studied honeybees in Vietnam in August and noticed this defense method. 

The team observed 72 beekeepers, five colonies of which were populated by Western honeybees. The Western beehives had no poop smeared onto them, whereas 63 out of the 67 remaining Eastern beehives did.

Honey Bees Use Pungent Poop to Stave off Giant Murder Hornet Attacks
Honeybee carrying dung. Source: University of Guelph

The team noted that the animal feces were found on the hives following attacks from giant murder hornets, and the researchers are adamant that the method is a response to the attacks. 

And it turned out that the method worked. Fewer giant hornet attacks were recorded on the hives smeared with dung. 

"Giant hornets are the biggest wasps that threaten honeybees. They are one of their most significant predators," explained Otis.

However, it's as clear as day that Western honeybees aren't equipped with adequate self-defense tools. Giant Asian hornets are a recent addition to North America's fauna, which means that North American bees haven't yet had the chance to adapt to this new predator. 

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Honey Bees Use Pungent Poop to Stave off Giant Murder Hornet Attacks
Honeybees spreading dung near their hive entrance. Source: University of Guelph

Just last month, entomologists in Washington state in the U.S. were hunting for giant murder hornet nests, and in October the first discovered hornet next in the same state was vacuumed out

Honeybees will have to adapt quickly if they want to stand up against these predators which, as their name suggests, hunt down and murder little honeybees. These invasive species can obliterate entire hives in just a few hours.

Given how important honeybees are to the habitat, it's crucial to find a way to keep them alive if giant murder hornets are on the loose and moving around the world. 

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