VSL:SCIENCE // The flight of the bumblebee, redux

The next time you’re hiking through the forests of Nepal, keep an eye out for large domes hanging from the branches above you. If you do see one, do not disturb it. In fact, run away — as quickly as possible! These domes are home to an astoundingly huge, extremely aggressive species of honeybee (Apis dorsata) that responds to threats by swarming and stinging invaders until they’ve fled — or died.

But swarming isn’t the only defense mechanism these giant honeybees deploy. A recent paper by Austrian researchers found that wasps and hornets — which “beehawk” (that is, eat) giant honeybees for lunch — inspire the bees to turn into something like a dance troupe. Spotting a predator, worker bees sound an alarm by raising their abdomens and gyrating their, um, bee-hinds. Soon, the rest of the hive joins in. The technical term is shimmering, and the actual effect is, to us humans, mesmerizing: like watching a stadiumful of Georgia Tech fans doing the wave.

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VSL:SCIENCE // The flight of the bumblebee, redux