London, Dec 21 (ANI): An Australian stingless bee has a stern way of dealing with any beetle that tries to enter its hive - the parasitic interloper is mummified alive as the bee wraps it in resin, wax and mud until it is rendered inscape of any movement.
The beetle eventually starves to death.
The method is capable of ending a beetle attack within minutes.
The research done by entomologist Mark Greco, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Western Sydney, Australia and the Swiss Bee Research Centre in Bern, Switzerland, has been published in the journal Naturwissenschaften.
Australia has about 2,000 bee species out of which only 10 are stingless.
These stingless bees are quite like honeybees and are important pollinators of crops.
However, not much information is available on the parasites or pathogens of Australian stingless bees.
According to Greco, "occasionally one finds native beetles or other insects embedded in the wax structures of the nest while splitting or managing the hives," reports the BBC.
Greco and a research team looked at the response of the stingless bee (Trigona carbonaria) to adult small hive beetles (Aethina tumida).
They used an imaging technique to take pictures of the bee colony using a CT scanner and observed the insects' interactions, both at the entrance of the hive as also within the hive.
When a small hive beetle enters the bees' domain worker bees fight with it and bite at its legs.
The beetle adopts a "turtle posture", tucking in its heads and legs, to protect it but the bees take this opportunity to mummify it.
"The beetles remain in position and eventually starve and shrivel on the spot," said Greco.
The mummification process is so successful that "it takes only 10 minutes for all beetle advancements to cease," said Greco.
He added: "It prevents the beetles from feeding and reproducing, thus saving the colony." (ANI)