This brain activation was also seen when the bees were exposed to heat, supporting the idea the brain region is sending out directions to keep the bees producing steady heat that's hot enough to kill the hornets, but not themselves. This neural activity wasn't seen in European honeybees.
"Because there is only 3 to 5 C difference [5 to 9 degrees F] in the lethal temperature between the Japanese honeybee and the giant hornet, accurate monitoring and precise control of heat generation during forming a hot defensive bee ball seem critical for the Japanese honeybees," they wrote.
As Xu Qifang, Ankang’s major, points out, massacring hornets comes with consequences. Since hornets prey on pests, a single nest can protect 330 hectares of cropland, Xu said. The local hornet population means farmers don’t have to use pesticides, says an anonymous Beijing scholar, which can hurt the land and endanger human health. They are also among the bee species that carry out 80% of the world’s pollination.
Shaanxi villagers link surging hornet populations with dramatic changes in local climate. Warmer weather increases hornet populations; it also makes them attack-prone. As property developers have razed Shaanxi’s forests, the number of birds—the only airborne creatures big enough to take out a giant hornet—has fallen.
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