Bees have mouths, but they must scream with their bodies

Apparently Asian honeybees scream by furiously rubbing their wings together. As the inimitable Sabrina Imbler writes for The New York Times:

In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers describe the Asian honeybee's unique acoustic signal, which is called an antipredator pipe. The researchers colloquially refer to it as a "bee scream."

"It's like a shriek," said Hongmei Li-Byarlay, an entomologist at Central State University in Ohio, who was not involved with the new research. Dr. Li-Byarlay added that her colleagues who have observed the sounds before compared the noise to "crying."

The bees make this sound as their nests are threatened by the Vespa soror hornet, which hunts in packs and can dispatch a bee hive in a matter of hours.


As Ms. Kernen and Dr. Mattila pored over nearly 30 hours of bee noise, which contained about 25,000 instances of acoustic signaling, they felt confident they were listening to a new sound — a piercing alarm signal that shared traits with animal shrieks, including unpredictable frequencies and loud volumes.

As if the freakish body horror of bees mimicking the blood-curdling screams of humans with their limbs, one of the scientists also noted that she would get chills listening to the furious squalls of long-dead bees, which is precisely my kinda fucked-up poetry.

I Scream. You Scream. Bees Scream, Too. [Sabrina Imbler / The New York Times]

Image: Public Domain via Pixabay

Full disclosure: I also write for Wirecutter, which is own by The New York Times Company, which also publishes the New York Times.