Honeybees use animal poop to fight dreaded murder hornets

New study looks at how honeybees defend against Asian giant hornets

(File Photo)
(File Photo) (UF/IFAS)

Asian Giant Hornets, commonly known as murder hornets, can wipe out entire hives of honeybees within a matter of hours, but it turns out, honeybees have a pretty ingenious way of fighting back.

Their secret weapon? Poop.

A study published this week in the journal PLOS One found that in response to an attack by a murder hornet, worker bees in Vietnam foraged for animal feces, collected it with their mouths and then applied it around the entrance to their nests.

Spotting of the fecal defense system increases after colonies were exposed to attacks or to chemicals that scout hornets use to target colonies for mass attacks, the study found.

And it worked. Researchers found that colonies with heavy to moderate spotting of poop had a reduced likelihood of being attacked. Animal feces has properties that repel the hornets.

The researchers say their work shows the first time the honeybees have used other animals’ feces as a defense tool.

But researchers said that Western honeybees, the ones found in North America, aren’t as prepared for murder hornet attacks as their counterparts in the east.

The hornets have been spotted in Washington State earlier this year.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested the formation of a specialized task force, led by Texas A&M AgriLife experts, to protect citizens, agriculture and honey bees if the insect arrives.

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About the Author:

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 20 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.