Original article

Apidologie

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 195-200

Cooperative wasp-killing by mixed-species colonies of honeybees, Apis cerana and Apis mellifera

  • Ken TanAffiliated withKey Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of SciencesEastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan, Agricultural University
  • , Ming-Xian YangAffiliated withEastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan, Agricultural UniversityDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University
  • , Zheng-Wei WangAffiliated withEastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan, Agricultural University
  • , Hua LiAffiliated withEastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan, Agricultural University
  • , Zu-Yun ZhangAffiliated withEastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan, Agricultural University
  • , Sarah E. RadloffAffiliated withDepartment of Statistics, Rhodes University Email author 
  • , Randall HepburnAffiliated withEastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan, Agricultural UniversityDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University

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Abstract

The cooperative defensive behaviour of mixed-species colonies of honeybees, Apis cerana and Apis mellifera, were tested against a predatory wasp, Vespa velutina. When vespine wasps hawk honeybees at their nest entrances, the difference in the numbers of bees involved in heat-balling among pure species and mixed-species colonies was not significantly different. However, in the mixed colonies, the numbers of A. cerana and A. mellifera workers involved in heat-balling were significantly different. The duration of heat-balling among these three groups was significantly different. During heat-balling, guard bees of both species in mixed colonies raised their thoracic temperatures and the core temperatures of the heat-balls were about 45°C, which is not significantly different from that of the pure species. These results suggest that the two species of honeybees can cooperate in joint heat-balling against the wasps, but A. cerana was more assertive in such defence.

Keywords

cooperation defensive behaviour mixed species Apis cerana Apis mellifera