Bees can bite. Biologists from universities in Greece and France have discovered that, besides a tail sting, the honeybee is capable of packing a paralyzing bite. The bee uses its bite weapon on targets too small to be stung. such as wax moth larva and varroa mites. The intruders can infiltrate beehives and eat wax and pollen. The bee delivers a bite that can paralyze them for up to nine minutes, enough time for them to be ejected from the hive. The honeybee uses its mandibles to bite its enemy and then secretes 2-heptanone into the wound. In their paper, the authors explain that this defense weapon is produced in the mandibular glands, released by the mandible pore of a reservoir and through the groove flows at the sharp edge of mandibles.
“We believe, based on our morphological studies and the anatomical evidence provided by others, that the release of 2-H is not passive, but actively controlled by the contraction of mandibular muscles.” The “2-H” they refer to, 2-heptanone, is already known to biologists as a natural compound found in some foods, including beer and white bread, and is secreted by some insects. Biologists assumed, though, that the 2-H function is an alarm pheromone, chemically-tagging areas for bees to revisit or calling on other bees to attack intruders. Alexandros Papachristoforou, at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and others in the research team, discovered otherwise. He said he believed beekeepers will be surprised by the discovery, as it is “likely to cause a radical rethink of some long-held beliefs.” As important, he said that the discovery will probably send honeybee research off in new directions. A key suggestion from their study is that the 2-H from the honeybee may find use as a local anesthetic in both human and veterinary medicine. Via honeybee-secretion-local-anesthetic