bees attacking and eating green caterpillars?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by staceykcmu, Aug 25, 2011.

  1. staceykcmu

    staceykcmu New Member

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    Hello, I am not a beekeeper, but I observed a strange (disturbing) bee behavior on my camping trip in West Virginia and wanted to get some help.

    First, a bee was repeatedly stinging a green caterpillar. This appeared to attract at least 4 other bees who landed on the caterpillar. Their bodies seemed to be moving similar to how they move when collecting nectar from a flower. Shortly after, the caterpillar was cut in half and it seemed like the bees were consuming its interior juices.

    At first, I thought they were simply defending an area that the caterpillar tresspassed. However, soon after, I saw the same thing happen to the same type of green caterpillar that was much larger in size. The caterpillar was so large that one bee was actually inside its carcass and appeared to be drinking its juice along with 4 other bees that were eating the caterpillar from the outside.

    Is this normal bee behavior: bees coordinating an attack on a caterpillar and then eating it?

    I am sure these were not wasps. They were bees...
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    There are many bees and wasps, plus hornets. Honey bees are vegetarian. Yellow jackets and omnivorous. There are 3 or more strains of yellow jackets in the US. One is very dark and little to no strips. Many times they are mistaken for honey bees, sometimes even by experienced beekeepers. I am thinking what you saw were yellow jackets.
     

  3. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    What Iddee said. Plus a honey bee can only sting once. Once she does-the stinger and attached venom sac, as well as some of her intestines, stay stuck in the stingee. She then flies off and dies.
     
  4. 2kooldad

    2kooldad New Member

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    Where do the dark ones live....i have seen two kinds here...big yellow ones and little yellow ones...they're both kinda touchy about me cutting line near them but other than that they act just like honey bees as far as me getting around thier nest...part of my job is to locate them on the propertys i survey...i have to get coordinants on them an put them on the survey map so nobody gets hurt during construction....i also tape them off with ribbon so the loader guys know they are there and am the one who goes in to get any equipment that gets left behind when one of the crew leaves the area in a hurry with a yellow escort...i got the job when nobody else would go near them and cause i've trained myself to see them first...thats probly why i find so many feral honeybees.
     
  5. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    stacey writes:
    Hello, I am not a beekeeper, but I observed a strange (disturbing) bee behavior on my camping trip in West Virginia and wanted to get some help.

    tecumseh:
    the 'West Virginia' tag perhaps explained more than some might think and the sound of dueling banjos plays in the background.
     
  6. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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  7. 2kooldad

    2kooldad New Member

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    :rotfl: when you hear the banjos playen....its time to go.
     
  8. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    And not by canoe :beg:
     
  9. Jacobs

    Jacobs New Member

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    Back to the bees. Honey bees get protein from pollen. They mix it with nectar to make bee bread to feed their developing larvae. Many wasps and hornets get protein for their developing larvae by hunting and killing other insects (including honey bees). I regularly see European Hornets capturing and killing honey bees or picking up the freshly dead ones from in front of my hives. They are joined by yellow jackets and wasps that carve up the crawlers (honey bees that have aged out of useful work and are walking away from the hives) and carry the remains back to their nests.

    Wasps and hornets are useful for insect/pest control so I try not to destroy nests or kill them unless they become a serious threat to my honey bees.
     
  10. Hawkster

    Hawkster New Member

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    I believe honey bees can sting other insects as may times as they want :) their stinger is barbed and catches on the muscle fibers when they sting mammals which is why the stinger stays in...
     
  11. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    Hawkster:
    I hadn't heard that. Where did you get that information. I'm not questioning your veracity, but am trying to learn all I can. Thanks.
     
  12. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    I have heard the same thing, and I have witnessed worker honeybees repeatedly stinging European hornets that were trying to get in the hive.
     
  13. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    Wow.
    OK, I learned something new.
    That's why I like this forum.
    Everytime I visit, I learn something new.
     
  14. me2pl

    me2pl New Member

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    Actually:because of the way bee stingers work, that's not true;bees would plunge their stingers in once and clamp down the muscles on the venom sac, until it releases a suitable amount of venom into its target. Then, if what you say is true, the bee will remove its stinger, barbs and all, from the target.
    In all probability, those were wasps. I have never heard of bees hunting, but I have seen bee-like wasps hunting in this fashion. Wasps can sting as many times as they want, and are, and always will be carnivores, always hunting new prey to feed the larvae.
     
  15. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    What hobie is saying is true, but me2 is misunderstanding. A bee will not release all it's venom unless the barbs hold. If the barbs release, the bee will sting again.
     
  16. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    The reason for the bees losing their stingers in skin is because of the way skin "closes down" on the barbs and doesn't release it. Insects don't have skin but an exoskeleton of cuticle which can't trap the barbs like skin does. So the bees can withdraw the stinger and use it again.
    But to the first topic--there's no doubt that what you saw were wasps.
    They can really fool you but no self respecting bee would eat meat :p