Bees Commit Suicide to Protect the Colony From Deadly Mites

June 13, 2016

From: The Science Explorer

By Erica Tennenhouse


A research team has now figured out how the Eastern honeybees manage to survive mite infestations that are fatal to Western honeybees. Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers found that a greater number of infested Eastern bumblebee larvae succumb to their mites than do their Western counterparts. Weak and dead larvae, together with their parasites, are expelled from the colony by their siblings, preventing the mites from spreading.

The behavior is termed “altruistic suicide.” Study co-author Zheguang Lin from Zhejiang University said in a press release, “The behavior is comparable to that of honey bee workers that lose their lives when they defend their colonies. Their sting apparatus detaches from their body to remain in the intruder, which results in a fatal haemorrhage.”

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