America’s Bees, Assemble
In 2020, leave the social distancing to the humans
2020. The Great Pause. Casualties rise. Economies plummet.
Medical staff across the globe are engaged in a tireless tussle against what man cannot see. With each passing day, the nightmare only seems to worsen. Some believe that lockdowns across the world have saved our planet and her inhabitants, slowing industries to a grinding halt and cutting emissions across the board. But 2020 isn’t over yet. And for apiaries in America, the terror has just begun.
Weakened from a harsh winter that saw a shocking 40% decline in American bee populations, bees once native to Europe now face a more ghastly foe, one that has crossed continents to lay waste to what remains of their kind.
Japanese Goliath hornets.
Imagine a cold-blooded serial killer who can decapitate 40 victims a minute with no mercy and bring them home for their children to feast upon. And you thought John Wick was cool. The mere thought arrests the mind. Now imagine a hive full of them coming towards you, each killer 2.5 inches in length, stingers at the ready.
Thirty of these murder hornets can wipe out an entire colony in less than an hour. Bees and their heads spewed across their hives like confetti. It was no wild party. It was an execution by living guillotines.
Equipped with stings that can pierce through beekeeper suits, their potential to massacre a dwindling bee population is worrying. Researchers liken the Vespa Mandarinia’s flesh-melting stings to searing-hot thumbtacks being driven into living tissue.
Honeybees in America did not evolve alongside these agents of chaos, which means that they have no natural defense against them. Their stings barely dent the foreign insect’s thick armour. But Japanese honeybees have fought against these nightmares for centuries. And they have a solution.
When one of these monstrosities approaches a nest, Japanese honeybees swarm the murder hornet and hold it in place. They will then proceed to vibrate their wings, instantly forming an oven around the intruder. While Japanese honeybees can withstand temperatures of up to 122° F (50° C), the goliath hornets can only bear a maximum temperature of up to 115° F (46° C).
At 117° F (47° C), the alien is toast.
Other bee subspecies have developed similar modus operandi to deal with hostile hornets. Oriental hornets with their thicker coats can survive thermo-balling ovens, so honeybees improvised. Hundreds of Cyprian honeybees enclose the offender in a ball too, but this one doesn’t smother it with kindness. Asphyxiated, the hornet suffocates to death.
Some honeybees use their abdomens to perform a Mexican wave, sending off high-frequency hisses that alert both hive members and predators of their presence. It’ll be a while before human gatherings can move their arms in sync to perform Mexican waves, so it’s best we leave it to our pollen-picking peers.
In a time when humans practice social distancing to save their kin, it has never been more important for honeybees in America to come together to bake some hornet ham.