Honeybees “scream” to one another in the moments before they are slaughtered by Murder Hornets, according to new research from Royal Society Open Science.
The sound is produced when the bees vibrate their wings and release a special pheromone from their abdomen.
The Royal Society research called the previously unknown noise a “rallying call for collective defense” and said it was similar to “alarm shrieks, fear screams and panic calls of primates, birds and meerkats.”
“It’s alarming to hear!” study co-author Heather Mattila told Gizmodo. “It’s characterized by rapid bursts of high-pitched sounds that change unpredictably in frequency—they’re quite harsh and noisy.”
The Murder Hornet — officially known as the Asian giant hornet — can grow up to two inches and is heavily armored. They are particularly fond of consuming normal honeybees, ransacking nests and feeding the vanquished to their young. A few dozen hornets can destroy a honeybee nest of thousands in just a few hours during a period scientists call a “slaughter phase.”
The hornets came to greater public consciousness in the United States after several colonies of them cropped up in Washington state.
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