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Bees can bite victims as well as sting

Last Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 12:28

London: Bees not only bite enemies that are too small to sting, but paralyze their victims with a snake like venom, scientists have discovered.

The insects use their tiny mandibles to bite animals that are too small to sting, like the wax moth and the parasitic varroa mite.

Like the snake bite, the bite contains a natural anaesthetic to paralyse the victim so the pest can be dragged out of the hive, the Telegraph reported.

The finding could help scientists develop ways to help bees fight off viruses that are affecting the wider population.

Dr Alexandros Papachristoforou, of the University of Thessaloniki in Greece, who led the team, said the finding will cause “a complete re-thinking of honeybee defense mechanisms” and could lead to the production of a natural, low toxicity local anaesthetic for humans and animals.

“It is amazing that this second line of honeybee defense has gone undetected for so long. Beekeepers will be very surprised by our discovery and it is likely to cause a radical rethink of some long-held beliefs. It will probably stimulate honeybee research in many new directions,” he said.

Scientists found 2-heptanone (2-H), a natural compound found in many foods as well as insects, in the bite.

They discovered for the first time that the compound has anaesthetic properties.

“Somewhat like a snake, the honeybee uses its mandibles to bite its enemy and then secretes 2-heptanone into the wound to anaesthetise it. This enables the honeybee to eject the enemy from the hive and is a particularly effective defence against pests, such as wax moth larvae and varroa mites, which are too small to sting,” the report said.

The findings are publixhed in the journal PLOS ONE.


First Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 12:28

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