Groundbreaking research has made a sensational discovery, revealing Asian honey bees cover their nests with pellets of animal dung to shield them from murderous hornets, scientists from Wellesley College in the US told The Guardian.
The research shocked the scientists as bees are known for being hygienic, helping the creatures to prevent diseases. Professor Heather Mattila, who led the study, is certain that the reason why bees started using animal poo as a defence tool was the arrival of giant killer hornets in North America in 2019.
"The first time I heard about it, I was so worried I couldn’t sleep. I thought, 'These bees are going to get massacred'. They just don't have the exposure to these hornet species and, as a result, they are sitting ducks", The Guardian cited Mattila as saying.
The research took off during a field study in Vietnam when Canadian Professor Gard Otis, who was a member of the research group, discovered one of the hive entrances was covered with barely identified spots that turned out to be buffalo dung.
"We spent a lot of time hanging out in nearby farms. I sat with pigs and a chicken coop and finally it paid off", Professor Otis said.
He and his team managed to discover a specific behavioural pattern – bees only covered their hives with dung after attacks from hornets, so as to prevent further assaults.
At present, the scientists suggest that the key finding in their research is bees' ability to convert something taken from the environment into a tool that can be deployed for different purposes.