Guards attack wasp Guard bees attack an invading wasp.

Bees have a much greater armory of defenses against attacks than simply their stingers. For external threats, the bees rely, first and foremost, on their protective nest. Guard bees patrolling the single, tight entrance quickly attack intruders, and when necessary, will join a massive counterattack synchronized by the release of alarm pheromones. For internal threats, bees have a bevy of defenses as well. When first building the hive, they varnish the interior walls with floral herbicides and fungicides. They bear a colony-specific odor that helps them distinguish between colony members and intruders. The honey they produce has biocidal properties that inhibit the microbial spoilage of this precious resource. And so-called "undertaker" bees are so assiduous about removing the carcasses of their dead fellows that, while a nest will suffer about 100 deaths of its members every day, it rarely will contain more than one or two dead adults at any one time.

Bees at wooden entrance to home Guard bees patrol the entrance to a hive.

Photos: ©1998 ORF.