Free access
Volume 39, Number 4, July-August 2008
Page(s) 468 - 474
Published online 25 June 2008
Apidologie 39 (2008) 468-474
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2008027

High frequency sounds produced by Cyprian honeybees Apis mellifera cypria when confronting their predator, the Oriental hornet Vespa orientalis

Alexandros Papachristoforou1, Jérôme Sueur2, Agnès Rortais3, Sotirios Angelopoulos4, Andreas Thrasyvoulou1 and Gérard Arnold3

1  Laboratory of Apiculture-Sericulture, School of Agriculture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
2  Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Département Systématique et Évolution, USM 601 MNHN & UMR 5202 CNRS, BP 50, 45 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France
3  Laboratoire Évolution, Génomes, Spéciation, CNRS UPR 9034, Université Paris-Sud 11, Orsay, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
4  Laboratory of Engineering Geology, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Received 28 December 2007 - Revised 28 February 2008 - Accepted 18 March 2008 - Published online 25 June 2008

Abstract - Honeybees face several predators and their ability to express collective defence behaviour is one of their major life traits that promote colony survival. We discovered that, while confronting attacks by the Oriental hornet Vespa orientalis, Apis mellifera cypria honeybees engage in a distinct acoustic behaviour: they produce a characteristic hissing sound of unexpectedly high frequency. When recording and analysing these hissing sounds during an extended sample of artificial attacks by hornets, we found that honeybees can produce sounds covering a wide frequency spectrum with a dominant frequency around 6 kHz. Notably, these acoustic emissions are distinct from the background noise of neighbouring flying bees. These results provide a detailed description of the sounds generated by A. m. cypria when defending their nest against hornets, and they could be used for future research to better understand the biological function of the acoustic behaviour in honeybees' colony defence.

Key words: hissing sound / colony defence / Apis mellifera cypria / Vespa orientalis / prey-predator contest

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2008