These Honeybees Repel Hornets By Creating “Shimmering” Effects

Giant honeybees (Apis dorsata) belong to the oldest honeybee species, having evolved about five to ten million years ago. They build their nests predominantly in the open, suspending their strong semicircular combs from overhead supports such as tree branches, rocks, or buildings.

Since they are in the open, they are directly exposed to a wide range of predators, specifically to birds and wasps including hornets. This predatory burden seemingly gave rise to the evolution of a series of defense strategies. They show very well coordinated Mexican wave-like cascades called as “shimmering.”

“Shimmering starts at distinct spots on the nest surface and then spreads across the nest within a split second whereby hundreds of individual bees flip their abdomens upwards…shimmering creates a ‘shelter zone’ of around 50 cm that prevents predatory wasps from foraging bees directly from the nest surface,” according to the article published on Plos One.

With this clever move, the shimmering seems to be a key defense strategy that sustain the Giant honeybees’ open-nesting lifestyle.