Bees are less likely to sting if they are in large groups

(ORDO NEWS) — Protecting the hive is the duty of every bee in the swarm, but for the defender herself, such an attack is the last.

Now scientists have discovered that not all insects are willing to sacrifice their lives, as soon as the enemy approaches the hive, and in a large group, each individual bee is less willing to rush into a suicidal attack than if she were alone.

Honey is a prized treat for many animal species, from flies to bears, and bees must constantly defend their hive from intruders. They drive away small violators of the borders alone, but when a larger animal appears, they gather in groups for a collective attack.

The reason for such a collection are special pheromones secreted by guard bees: they attract all the nearest worker bees to the scene, which then take part in protecting the nest. However, until now, scientists did not know whether the bees attack “mindlessly” or still correlate their actions with external conditions.

To find out, the researchers observed the behavior of a group of bees when confronted with the “enemy” – a rotating dummy, and quantified their reaction, counting how many stingers were stuck in the dummy at the end of the experiment.

They then built a mathematical model of group dynamics that related the probabilistic choice of one bee to sting for a given pheromone concentration to the collective outcome observed in the experiment.

The results were unexpected: it turned out that the bees take into account their surroundings when deciding to sting the enemy.

By studying the behavior of insects in groups of different sizes and comparing their defensive response, the researchers showed that as the number of bees increases, new insects join the group less and less, and the number of stingers in the dummy grows more slowly than the size of the group – in other words, even rising to the defense. hive bees attack the enemy more and more reluctantly.

Bees are less likely to sting if they are in large groups 2
Perhaps Winnie the Pooh was just unlucky that so few bees flew out to meet him

Thus, alarm pheromones can have not only an exciting, but also an inhibitory effect on other bees: as soon as its concentration exceeds a certain threshold, the bees “decide” that there are enough defenders at the hive without them, so there is no point in sacrificing yourself.

Probably, this restriction allows the swarm to keep a sufficient number of worker bees for the further life of the hive: in the end, sooner or later the intruder will leave, after which the surviving insects will have to continue to gather supplies for the coming winter.


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