Heat-balling wasps by honeybees


Defensiveness of honeybee colonies of Apis cerana and Apis mellifera (actively balling the wasps but reduction of foraging) against predatory wasps, Vespa velutina, and false wasps was assessed. There were significantly more worker bees in balls of the former than latter. Core temperatures in a ball around a live wasp of A. cerana were significantly higher than those of A. mellifera, and also significantly more when exposed to false wasps. Core temperatures of bee balls exposed to false wasps were significantly lower than those exposed to V. velutina for both A. cerana and for A. mellifera. The lethal thermal limits for V. velutina, A. cerana and A. mellifera were significantly different, so that both species of honeybees have a thermal safety factor in heat-killing such wasp predators. During wasps attacks at the hives measured at 3, 6 and 12 min, the numbers of Apis cerana cerana and Apis cerana indica bees continuing to forage were significantly reduced with increased wasp attack time. Tropical lowland A. c. indica reduced foraging rates significantly more than the highland A. c. cerana bees; but, there was no significant effect on foraging by A. mellifera. The latency to recovery of honeybee foraging was significantly greater the longer the duration of wasp attacks. The results show remarkable thermal fine-tuning in a co-evolving predator–prey relationship.

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Correspondence to H. R. Hepburn.

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Ken, T., Hepburn, H.R., Radloff, S.E. et al. Heat-balling wasps by honeybees. Naturwissenschaften 92, 492–495 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-005-0026-5

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  • A. cerana
  • A. mellifera
  • Foraging
  • Defense
  • Balling temperature
  • Hornet
  • Vespa velutina