Surprising Video Shows Ants Holding A Funeral For Dead Bumblebee

Surprising Video Shows Ants Holding A Funeral For Dead Bumblebee

Even in this century, mother nature still finds new ways to surprise us, from curious bears to domesticated coyotes and more. A recent video reveals the extraordinary moment a woman happens upon what looks like a bumblebee burial held by ants.

You can find ants everywhere, including every home, school, office, city, and country. They evolved about 140 million years ago from their wasp-like ancestors and diversified after the rise of flowering plants.

Ants are social insects that live in large groups called colonies, which can consist of millions of ants depending on the species. In any case, every colony has three kinds of ants: the males, the female workers, and the queen. [1]

That’s not very ant-like

Imagine Nicole Webinger’s surprise when she came upon what seemed to be a bizarre twist of nature: a group of ants creating what appeared to be a funeral rite for a dead bumblebee.

She described the scene, saying, “As we were watching, the ants worked together to gather purple flower petals and arrange them in a circle around the bumblebee. It looked like they were holding a funeral for it.” [2]

Video proof

Luckily for us, Nicole had the presence of mind to whip out her phone and video this unusual event. She posted the clip onto Facebook with a post that described the event like a burial. 

The video has since gotten millions of views and raised quite a few questions about what was really going on. Were the ants really holding a funeral for the bumblebee, or was it an entirely different event?

Fact or hoax?

According to behavioral ecologist Mark Elgar: “The compulsion we have to ascribe human characteristics on other species illustrate the power of suggestion.” [3]

We see a group of ants burying a bumblebee in flower petals because the caption says so, even though the scene is most likely a natural occurrence of a different sort.

Elgar argues that the bee may have dropped over the top of the ants’ nest entrance, hence the number of petals gathered around it and the ants arriving with more petals. He also points out that the simplest explanation was that some individuals staged it for hype. In reality, it may be a hoax.

Just a natural occurrence

So far, experts are yet to come to a consensus to explain the meaning of this ant behavior. A running hypothesis is that since both ants and bees release a compound called oleic acid when they die, the ants must have stumbled across the bumblebee while transporting flower petals and mistook it for one of their own. [4]

Even though they both secrete oleic acid when they die, bees prefer to discard their dead by throwing the bodies out of the hive. Ants, on the other hand, are wired to transport their deceased to a refuse heap.

Therefore, all the video shows us are ants dropping their petals around a dead bee, perhaps as they attempt to drag it to their heap. This, however, would be a first-ever event that has never been seen before in nature; you’d expect to see ants burying dead bees all over the place if they couldn’t distinguish their dead.

Another theory is that the ants were attempting to mask the bee’s scent to hide it from potential predators so they could snack on it themselves. This theory is dampened the same way as the first, since this kind of behavior has not been seen before in ants. [4]

Thomas O’Shea-Wheller, a postdoctoral researcher of entomology at Louisiana State University, had two more ideas:

“I think it is one of two things; either a ‘rubbish mound’ for the ants, upon which they are stacking various decomposing items (including a bumblebee and petals). 

“Or, a food store upon which they are storing items that they have foraged for. Either way, the key point is that they seem to be treating the bee and petals as the same kind of resource, or waste product, thus the appearance of a ‘bee funeral’.” [5]

Whatever the reason behind the event, the video is incredibly refreshing to watch and wonder about. Many experts believe that the chances of us witnessing such a scene occur in nature again is quite slim. The video gets one thinking about the undiscovered wonders of the world.

References:

  1. “Ants: Fun Facts about Ants & Ant Information for Kids.” Pest World For Kids.
  2. “Ants Bring Flower Petals To Cover Dead Bumblebee In What Looks Like ‘Funeral’.” Reshareworthy.
  3. “Baffling Viral Video Shows Ants Carrying Flowers to a Dead Bee.” Science Alert.
  4. “Viral video shows ants covering a dead bee in flowers. Is this an interspecies funeral?” Mother Nature Network
  5. “Bizarre Video Shows Ants Performing A Strange Ritual Around A Dead Bee.” IFLScience.
#Uplifting