According to recent research published in the Royal Society Open Science, honeybees “scream” to one another in the moments before murder hornets slay them.
The sound is produced when the bees vibrate their wings and release a particular pheromone from their abdomen, reported NY Post.
The Royal Society research called the previously unknown noise a “rallying call for collective defense.” It said it was similar to “alarm shrieks, fear screams and panic calls of primates, birds, and meerkats.”
“It’s alarming to hear!” study co-author Heather Mattila said. “It’s characterized by rapid bursts of high-pitched sounds that change unpredictably in frequency—they’re quite harsh and noisy.”
The murder hornet, officially known as the Asian giant hornet—can grow up to two inches and is heavily armored.
When left unchecked, enormous Asian hornets can decimate a honeybee hive in hours, preying on larvae and decapitating bees in a “slaughter phase,” according to scientists. After that, the hornets feed their young severed body pieces.
According to the study, signal rates climb seven to eight times during a hornet attack. Bees use “fecal spotting,” a defense strategy in which they gather animal feces and apply it to the entrance of their hives to prevent hornets, in addition to anti-predator pipes.
Other tactics include “balling,” Bees form a hive and suffocate the hornet by vibrating their wing muscles. A hornet can be killed in 30 minutes by the vibration-fueled heat, which can reach 46 degrees Celsius, combined with the carbon dioxide created by the bees.
Hornets are an invasive species with difficult-to-find nests since they prefer to live in forested places.
Giant hornets have become more common in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in recent months. The third enormous hornet nest discovered in the United States this year was in Washington state in September, reported The Guardian.
In addition to wreaking havoc on beehives, the gigantic hornet may also hurt humans, sometimes fatally. The hornets can also eject venom.
One entomologist described the sensation of being stung by a murder hornet as “hot tacks pushed into my flesh.”