Researchers in Australia and France found that certain floral scents can calm even the most aggressive honeybees.
That might be because honeybees associate flowers with the promise of food, and it appears that the bees would much rather get some food, than commence a stinging attack. Researchers also found that whenever the bees were exposed to both floral scents and odorous pheromones calling for an attack, the floral scents always won the battle. Talk about “flower power”.
The new research – published December 22 in the journal Nature Communications – sheds some light on how the decision-making of honeybees is affected by chemical signals. It may also help beekeepers in dealing with aggressive bees.
Any colony or hive has a queen bee, drone bees, and worker bees – which have specific tasks such as cleaning, foraging, or guarding the hive.
Previous research has shown that the worker bees which protect he hive are the most aggressive of all the bees. When threatened, they emit a scent known as sting alarm pheromone. As soon as they sense the scent, the other bees also become agitated and prepare for an attack. However, all of this comes at a cost because worker honeybees usually die after stinging a fleshy animal. Their stinger tears off from their bodies during an attack.
In their research – led by Judith Reinhard of the University of Queensland in Brisbane Australia and Giurfa at the University of Toulouse in France – scientists exposed the bees to a variety of odours, while agitating them with a feathery object.
When the honeybees sensed the pheromone they immediately attached the feathery object. On the other end of the spectrum, the bees restrained from attack when exposed to flower scents such as lavender. The more appealing the scent was, the more it soothed the bees, researchers found.
Morgane Nouvian, first author on the report and a graduate student at the University of Queensland and University of Toulouse‘s Paul Sabatier University, said that the new findings could have applications in beekeeping.
An odour releasing device and a hand cream or spray could help reduce the number of bee stinging. These may be better alternatives to the current use of repellents or smoke, according to Nouvian.
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