Meat Bees

A little-known species of tropical bee has evolved an extra tooth for biting flesh and a gut that more closely resembles that of vultures rather than other bees.

They set up baits -- fresh pieces of raw chicken suspended from branches and smeared with petroleum jelly to deter ants.

The baits successfully attracted vulture bees and related species that opportunistically feed on meat for their protein. Normally, stingless bees have baskets on their hind legs for collecting pollen. However, the team observed carrion-feeding bees using those same structures to collect the bait. "They had little chicken baskets," said Quinn McFrederick, a UCR entomologist. [...]

"Even though they can't sting, they're not all defenseless, and many species are thoroughly unpleasant," Yanega said. "They range from species that are genuinely innocuous to many that bite, to a few that produce blister-causing secretions in their jaws, causing the skin to erupt in painful sores."

In addition, though they feed on meat, their honey is reportedly still sweet and edible. "They store the meat in special chambers that are sealed off for two weeks before they access it, and these chambers are separate from where the honey is stored," Maccaro said.

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10 Responses:

  1. thielges says:

    "In addition, though they feed on meat, their honey is reportedly still sweet and edible. "

    Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness:Despite that squeamish historic slogan, Lyle's Golden Syrup is now being marketed as "deliciously vegan".

  2. Pakraticus says:

    I quite enjoyed finding this picture of a vulture bee nest on imgur...

  3. Rodger says:

    I love that researchers in every article on this are immediately "I must try the honey"

    • cdavies says:

      I'm disappointed they didn't go further. Does the flavour of the honey change if you feed them on different meats? Can you feed them chorizo or something to make spicy honey? What if you feed them on the sweetest meat of all, man?

  4. phuzz says:

    Some butterflies eat flesh as well, which always seems slight odd to me, even though there's plenty of other insects that do as well.

  5. Jon says:

    The bees have their own Ham Chamber.  Terrifying.

  6. Alex says:

    A bit like wasps, then.

  7. 5

    This changes everything! Pardon me while I go write up my thoughts, a Meat Bee Manifesto if you will!

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