Hornets and Japanese honeybees are longstanding mortal enemies, but the way they wage war against each other is pretty amazing, according to scientific observations recently released. Hornets attack the nests of bees at will, seemingly unfazed by being heavily outnumbered. Hornets aren’t very afraid of honeybees in general because their stingers are not able to penetrate the hornet’s thick armor of skin. So, a hornet can actually walk into a bees’ nest relatively safely. However, the bees have found a way to stave off these armored intruders anyway, banding together to defeat their attackers by cooking them alive.
Instead of actually trying to attack the hornet, the bees swarm together and start to go around the hornet in a circle. They apparently have learned through evolutionary process that attacking the hornet with their stingers is useless. As the swarm of bees continue to revolve around the hornet, their wings flapping at high speeds create heat. They are actually able to create temperatures up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, which is enough to suck the life out a hornet.
Scientists wanted to know more about the processes going through these bees’ tiny brains when they were engaged in this team effort of cooking a hornet. Sure enough, the bees minds were much more active during the process, showing that their really was a cooperative and learned strategy to fight off the attacking hornet. European honeybees do not share this war strategy so far. The same type of brain activity was present in the bees when they are exposed to heat. Researchers think that the bees are cognitively aware of how much heat they can produce to kill the hornet and not each other. They actually know when it’s time to stop and go back to normal operations. After all, a honeybee dies around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving the bees with not much margin of error for killing the hornet before they fry themselves. Remarkably, they know exactly how far they can go and stop just short of causing harm to their own kind.