Scientists unveil unique ’soldier’ bee

January 11th, 2012 - 8:15 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 11 (IANS) Scientists have profiled a ’soldier’ bee for the first time, programmed to protect its hive from invaders.

The discovery was made by a team from the universities of Sussex and São Paulo, Brazil. The ’soldiers’ hover at the entrance of the nest where they provide ‘early warning’ of enemy attack.

Working on a farm in Brazil, the team marked bees hovering close to the entrance to hives. They found that the soldier bees assumed the guard role for longer periods than their ‘worker’ colleagues.

Soldier bees are 30 percent heavier than worker bees and make up just one percent of the colony, whereas workers number around 10,000 per hive.

Known as Jatai in Brazil, they have slightly smaller heads and thicker legs than the workers, which helps them to fight off their main enemies - the robber bee.

Robber bees simply fly into hives, steal the honey and fly away. A full-scale attack by multiple robber bees can destroy an entire colony.

However, despite being stingless and far smaller, soldier bees are able to fight off single robber bee scouts. They clamp their heads onto the wings of robber bees, preventing them from flgiht.

“Stingless bees are not defenceless,” said Francis Ratnieks, professor at Sussex University, who led the research. “Jatai is one of the most common bees found in Brazil, but its sophisticated defences make it one of the most amazing.”

-Indo-Asian News Service

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