Public Release: 

Japanese honeybees swarm huge hornet predator to kill it with heat


Japanese honeybees face a formidable foe in the Asian giant hornet, a fierce predator that can reach 40mm long or larger, but the bees have developed a novel defense mechanism: they create a "hot defensive bee ball," swarming around the hornet and literally cooking it.

Now, a new study published Mar. 14 in the open access journal PLoS ONE uncovers some of the neural activity that underlies this unusual behavior, which is not practiced by the Japanese honeybee's European relative.

The researchers, including Takeo Kubo of the University of Tokyo and Masato Ono of Tamagawa University, actually sampled honeybees as they were engaged in a hot defensive bee ball, plucking them off the ball at different time points to investigate the brain function behind this unique adaptive behavior. Using a novel marker gene to detect the neural activity evoked in the brains of the honeybees that form the bee ball, they found that neurons that make up the higher brain center are active while the bees are part of the hot ball. This neural activity differs from that seen in European honeybees.


Citation: Ugajin A, Kiya T, Kunieda T, Ono M, Yoshida T, et al. (2012) Detection of Neural Activity in the Brains of Japanese Honeybee Workers during the Formation of a ''Hot Defensive Bee Ball''. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32902. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032902

Financial Disclosure: This work was supported in part by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) and Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas ''Systems Molecular Ethology'' from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. No additional external funding was received for this study.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Disclaimer: This press release refers to upcoming articles in PLoS ONE. The releases have been provided by the article authors and/or journal staff. Any opinions expressed in these are the personal views of the contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the release and article and your use of such information.

About PLoS ONE

PLoS ONE is the first journal of primary research from all areas of science to employ a combination of peer review and post-publication rating and commenting, to maximize the impact of every report it publishes. PLoS ONE is published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the open-access publisher whose goal is to make the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource.

All works published in PLoS ONE are Open Access. Everything is immediately available--to read, download, redistribute, include in databases and otherwise use--without cost to anyone, anywhere, subject only to the condition that the original authors and source are properly attributed. For more information about PLoS ONE relevant to journalists, bloggers and press officers, including details of our press release process and our embargo policy, see the everyONE blog at

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.