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Asian honeybees develop novel way to destroy “killer” hornets

A few days ago, you may have seen media reports about a large Asian hornet that measures up to 2 inches long with a sting that could be deadly to some humans.

The hornet kills up to 50 people a year in Japan, according to a story in The New York Times.

Dr. Mary “Katie” Kilmer is an assistant professor of biology and environmental health at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. She’s also the keeper for ten beehives located on a natural prairie area on the MSSU campus.

She says in Asia, bees have adapted to the presence of the seemingly invincible killer hornets – and have even developed a way to get rid of them.

“When a hornet comes up to the honeybee hives, the honeybees will actually all cluster around the hornet,” Kilmer states.

“They’ll physically vibrate their thorax – like we do when we shiver – so it gives off heat and they can cook the hornet alive in a ball of bees.They can get it hot enough so the bees are flying but the hornet dies.”

However, Dr. Kilmer says bees in the United States have not encountered the Asian hornet. They have not developed a similar defensive capacity.

She says university students study the bees at Missouri Southern to learn more about pollination. She also says honey can also be harvested from the hives and any profits made can help fund students’ research projects.

The best part?  Honey from the Missouri Southern bees is available for sale at the MSSU bookstore.

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