The animal kingdom can be an odd paradox. Some of the least likely predators can become quite vicious- and even kill and eat their own. It is often fascinating what a species will do to protect their own- as well as what they have. What about bees? Bees are a fairly docile group of pollinators, and rarely attack unless they, themselves, or the hive are under threat.
But, do bees kill each other?
There are some instances where bees will kill one another. This is seen among queen bees, fighting for control of the hive and to the death. In other instances, bees may not necessarily be trying to kill each other, when they defend their hive, colony, and honey, they may also kill one another.
Under what conditions do bees kill each other? Keep reading to find out more about bees!
What happens if more than one queen emerges to take control of a hive? The result could be a fight to the death among the queen bees.
This is normal bee behavior and queens are replaced from time to time, but often not without a battle first. Two queens will not tolerate and cohabitate in a colony together. If a queen is old and dying, there is still going to be a battle between her and the newly emerging queen, to determine the new queen and to uphold the strength of the hive. To a bee, this is perfectly normal.
The social constructs of a hive are much like norms and rules in any society. Generally, bees are docile and hardworking creatures that contribute vastly to the global food chain.
There are times and situations that merit aggressive behavior and sometimes, the life of a few bees is the fallout. When bees are under attack, they can become quite the fierce fighter- but more on that soon!
Probably the most common instance of bees getting into a battle and some losing their lives comes when bees from a different hive attempt to steal honey from another colony of bees.
As far as the bee is concerned, next to their queen, honey is the most valuable commodity in the hive. It is something that they need to survive and for their young brood to thrive.
Bees will defend the hive and their honey to the death- and in some cases, the entire colony may perish trying to protect and defend it.
Think of it from another perspective, however: what if you were running low on honey stores for the long winter ahead? If you thought that your colony- including your young- would starve and die, would you go out and forage for and steal honey from another hive?
Bees are wired to do what it takes to survive and provide for the hive- even if it means stealing honey and starting something with another colony of bees. Bees are most likely to steal honey from other hives when foraging is poor or when weather conditions are bad.
Bees will die and kill one another in a battle to defend a hive against honey stealing- just as those who have come to the hive for the honey, will kill to take it away.
Beekeepers help by ensuring their hives do not run out of honey or food in the winter months by providing sufficient supplies– and to assess conditions that could make the apiary vulnerable to attacks from other bees or predators.
The best way to prevent bees from fighting and potentially killing each other is to help your hive defend itself against intruding marauders that aim to steal the honey. Shrink the size of the entry into the hive and limit the number of entrances.
By doing this, you are giving the bees a better chance to defend their hive and it makes it easier for them to see the intruders coming.
Also, clear debris and trash from around the hives and remove anything that could potentially have honey on it. The honey residue will attract thieving bees. If bees are low on honey in their hive, they will go out hunting for signs of hives with honey nearby.
By allowing honey frames or gear to lay near the hive, you are inviting trespassing bees to come and try to steal from the hive. Keep the apiary tidy and clean.
Keep your bees calm by ensuring that they are fed during nectar shortages or foul weather conditions. Provide the bees with feeders of sugar syrup so that they do not get hungry and go looking for trouble. Plus, this increases the bees’ ability to defend themselves in case they find themselves under attack.
Aggressive bees can kill each other, too. The underlying cause of the bee’s aggressive tendencies may vary- perhaps it is due to chilly weather, or the nectar is in low supply. Ordinarily docile bees can get aggressive when conditions for the hive are not quite right.
Bees will become aggressive when it comes to defending their hive, too, as demonstrated. Bees will react aggressively if their queen is missing or if she has died. The queen has a lot to do with calming down the colony with her soothing pheromone which she uses to send messages to the other bees. Bees will also get aggressive if it becomes uncomfortably hot in the hive.
Perhaps the most aggressive that bees get is when they are low on honey- or if the hive has run out of honey. The bees become very aggressive and go out to search and steal honey for the hive.
If conditions change, such as the weather becoming nice and foraging being fruitful once again, the bees will calm down and become less aggressive.
If bees are agitated because it has become hot in the hive, they will beard below the hive while they wait for it to cool down- or they will flap their wings to cool and circulate air inside- both practices may be effective at calming the bee.
Just like other species, there are some instances and situations that result in one bee killing another bee. While this may not always be intentional, it can occur from activities within the hive particularly pertaining to protecting the queen, the hive, and the honey.