clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How a swarm of honeybees cook a giant hornet alive

The Japanese honeybee has developed an interesting evolutionary trait that helps it defend itself from one of its most aggressive predators, the Japanese giant hornet. A small group of Japanese giant hornets can kill, one by one, an entire colony — nearly 30,000 — honeybees. So how do the honeybees defend themselves?

Professor Takeo Kubo and his team of researchers at the University of Tokyo observed that the honeybees, nearly 500 at a time, swarm around a single hornet, beat their wings furiously, and create enough heat to cook the hornet alive. This "hot defensive heat ball" occurs because they've developed a special mechanism in their brain to control the temperature precisely enough so that the hornet dies and they live.

Watch the video above to see an animated reenactment of the "heat ball."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.