The team of researchers found that honeybees in Vietnam collect animal waste and place it around the entrances to their nests in an effort to protect them from killer wasp raids.
The researchers wrote: “Workers collected feces in piles of dung throughout the study period; we also observed them looking for feces in a nearby chicken coop,” noting also that worker bees sometimes use soap scum, and on one occasion, humans urinate.
The team surveyed 72 beekeepers in late August, when killing wasp attacks were frequent. Among these beekeepers, only five colonies of Western honey bees have kept – and these breeders did not see piles of feces in their hives, the study says.
But of the remaining 67 beekeepers who kept eastern honey bees, 63 reported spots at the front of their hives. Beekeepers had an average of 15 colonies per breeder, and breeders reported seeing litter spots an average of 74% of their colonies. Piles of litter appeared after the killing wasps attacks, and researchers determined they were in response to the attacks.
And it worked – the researchers found that colonies with thick to moderate patches of faeces were less likely to be attacked, the researchers said.
Honey bees in North America do not have the same defenses
This is the first research to report that Eastern honey bee workers feed and use animal feces to defend themselves, and the team stated that there is no evidence that bees use excreta for many other things.
But western honey bees, found in North America, are not as ready for killer wasp attacks as their eastern counterparts.
“They did not have the opportunity to develop their defenses,” Matila said. “It’s like getting into a cold war.”
Or tube less.