Bees are notorious for their painful stings but surprisingly they are also able to bite and paralyze.
On targets that are too small to sting bees will use their mandibles to bite the attacker and paralyze it with a snake-like anesthetic. Such defensive measures are particularly helpful in removing parasites like the varroa mite from the hive. The discovery is believed to be particularly crucial in the development of ways to help bees fight off viruses that are contributing to their decline in numbers.
"It is amazing that this second line of honeybee defence has gone undetected for so long," said Dr Alexandros Papachristoforou. "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."
"Scientsits found 2-heptanone (2-H), a natural compound found in many foods as well as insects, in the bite."
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