The Wave that Saves: The Warning Systems of Giant Honeybees

From Michael Marshall, reporting for New Scientist:

If you’re at a sporting event and nothing much is happening, there’s a tried-and-tested way to pass the time: start a Mexican wave, also known simply as “The Wave”.


Giant honeybees also perform Mexican waves, but theirs have nothing to do with sport. They are a message to predators, the message in question being, “get lost”. Now it turns out the waves might also rock the bees’ nest, sending a warning message to all the bees simultaneously.

Giant bees don’t live in hives, but on both sides of a flat comb, layered on top of each other. When “special agent” bees on one side of the nest sense a predator, they initiate the wave by sticking up their abdomen. Just like at a sporting event, the move quickly spreads from bee to bee.

The bees on the other side of the nest feel the vibrations from the synchronized wave and are warned of the danger. It may be the best evidence of “The Wave” truly supporting the team.