Battle cry

Listen: This is what honeybees do when murder hornets attack

These bees scream.

Capelle.r/Moment/Getty Images

In 2020, the Asian giant hornet made headlines when it was spotted in the United States for the first time.

Karen Ducey/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Nicknamed murder hornets, these venomous insects grow up to two inches long and their stings can be deadly to humans.

But there’s one animal that has more to fear than us: honeybees.

While murder hornets don’t often attack people, they do intentionally go after honeybees.

Arizona State University via YouTube (Creative Commons)

stellalevi/E+/Getty Images

Murder hornets are known to decimate entire colonies in just a matter of hours.

They harvest dead honeybees and feed them to their young.

Some honeybee species in Asia, where the Asian giant hornet is native, have adopted unique defense mechanisms.

Heather Mattila/Wellesley College

Some form into a giant ball to literally cook the intruder, and others smear animal dung outside their hives to ward murder hornets off.

In some cases, honeybees use sound to alert others in the colony about an impending attack.

Shutterstock

In an article published on November 10 in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers describe a species of honeybees, Apis cerana, making a high-pitched, scream-like sound when exposed to the Asian giant hornet.

“The [sounds] share traits in common with a lot of mammalian alarm signals, so as a mammal hearing them, there's something that is instantly recognizable as communicating danger.

Heather Mattila, study co-author

Shutterstock

Here’s what that eerie noise sounds like:

Shutterstock

Heather Mattila/Wellesley College

It seems to work as an alarm signal to mobilize the colony and activate its defenses.

The researchers saw increased activity in worker bees once the sounds started.

Shutterstock

However, more research is needed to understand the inner workings of honeybee communication and how widespread these “screams” are among different species.

“We feel like we have only grazed the surface of understanding their communication. There’s a lot more to be learned.”

Gard Otis, study co-author

Shutterstock