The “wave” or “shimmering” effect is produced by thousands of honeybees moving in sync, and it’s used to scare wasps away from the nest.
A video of honeybees in Vietnam making ‘Mexican wave’ patterns reveals how the insects ward off predators. The wave-like cascading is called ‘shimmering’.
Bees in the outer layer thrust their abdomens 90° in an upward direction and shake them in a synchronous way. This may be accompanied by stroking of the wings. The signal is transmitted to nearby workers that also adopt the posture, thus creating a visible, and audible ‘ripple’ effect across the face of the comb.
These wave-like patterns repel wasps that get too close to the nests of these bees and serve to confuse the wasp. In turn, the wasp cannot fixate on capturing one bee or getting food from the bees’ nest, so the wasp will seek to find easier prey and leave this nest alone.
This defensive behaviour is particularly helpful to the honeybees who live in open-nesting habitats.
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