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Game of Thrones in Real Life: Australian Bees Observed In Merciless Wars

A team of researchers have come across more than 40 Game-of-Throne style wars among two bee species, the Tetragonula carbonaria and the Tetragonula hockingsi. Their recent study has documented how the bee colonies fight till death for the sake of a highly-coveted beehive. Their strategy entails merciless killing of the adversaries, and the invading bees attempt to make a place for their own queen into the hive.


Lust for honey

The greed for power has triggered wars among populations over and over for all of our history. Humans are not the only creatures fighting with such aims though – many others from the animal kingdom yearn to possess more wealth and would even seize it by force from rivals. Even the smallest of insects have this propensity, as demonstrated by two bee species in Brisbane, Australia, which have engaged in a fierce battle over a honey-filled hive. The Tetragonula carbonaria and the Tetragonula hockingsi have brought about a real Game of Thrones (their own version), putting their lives at stake for the sake of an extremely coveted beehive.

Both species of bees are stingless. The Tetragonula carbonaria is native to Australia while the Tetragonula hockingsi come from further north.

Everything is fair in war and the love for honey

T. carbonia is commonly known as the sugarbag bee because of its great stock of honey in their hive, which has become the target of other bee colonies. The raiders are often led to the hives of the T. carbonaria with the intention of claiming them for themselves. The invading bees and the rightful owners are ready to fight till death for weeks and weeks to gain control of the territory.

The merciless invasion

When trying to take over an already occupied beehive, the hockingsi drag the other bees out and kill them mercilessly and simultaneously make a way for their own queen so that they can finally take control of the hive and its highly-prized honey.

Both species have strong jaws, and as determined not to give up and to never let go once they have seized an adversary. One of the authors stated that:

“Neither the attacker nor defender survives in these one-on-one death battles, during which a carpet of dead and dying bees can be seen on the ground. It is a sheer numbers game as to who wins”

“It took three consecutive attacks over several weeks before the hockingsi bees won out. When they eventually broke through the defenses, they smothered the hive in a huge swarm, mercilessly ejecting the resident workers, drones and young queens. It was carnage!”

The new rulers

The researchers carried out genetic analysis of the bees which were occupying the hive after the fighting was over. They found out that the hockingsi had been crowned the new rulers of the hive. The queen was a hockingsi one, the daughter of the queen to whom the attacking army belonged.

The same team of researchers have been following these types of massive bee slaughters for 5 years now. They have found evidence for 46 such wars. They also noted that the hockingsi were not always the winners: the outcome of the battles cannot be determined in advance.


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