Nature has so many hidden secrets. It works in mysterious ways. Even the flowers that grow in your backyard carry a secret inside their petals.
Animals are so intriguing. Although they do things differently, some of their activities mimic our moves. Interspecies friendships have always been a topic. This story will give you a completely different aspect.
Nicole Webinger spotted something strange in her garden. An ant colony had created a funeral rite for a dead bumblebee. Nicole filmed the event, and shared the video. It became viral.
“Saw this outside of my work by the garden,” Nicole wrote on Instagram. “There was a dead bumblebee, and we were watching the ants bring flower petals and leaving them around the bumblebee. It looked like they were having a funeral for it.”
Was this really a funeral for the bumblebee?
How would you interpret this activity? The animal kingdom is full of wonders and mysteries.
Mark Elgar is a behavioral ecologist from the University of Melbourne.
“It’s a great video. I’ll use it for teaching first-year biology next year to illustrate the power of suggestion. The caption tells us that the ants are burying the bee in flower petals — how wonderful is that?”
According to him, this gathering was actually a natural occurrence of a different kind.
“My guess is that the bee is sitting over the top of the ants’ nest entrance, and that is why there is a number of petals sitting around the bee, including more ants arriving with petals. Of course, it might be a complete set- up. Someone actually put the bee there thinking this might happen, creating this lovely image.”
Ants and bees release oleic acid post-mortem. Ants probably came across the dead bumblebee while carrying the flower petals on their back. They sure thought it was one of them. Ants usually carry dead members of their colonies to a refuse heap.
There’s another theory. Ants may have tried to cover the scent of the bee from potential predators so they can eat it later. This behavior isn’t common in ants, and experts didn’t accept this theory.
Dana N Jesse Kendall saw the video on Ants Canada. She shared her opinion.
“Bees and ants are in the same family (Hymenoptera), so their dead bodies are going to release similar pheromones once they die. Ants protect their nest, and ‘bury’ the bodies of their dead sisters as far from the nest as they can.
They also discard the colony’s trash (insect exoskeletons, hatched cocoons, poop, etc) in the same place that they move the dead bodies to.
Discarding dead bodies and colonial trash in the same area cultivates symbiotic insects called ‘springtails’ and they feed on, and break down, the dead bodies and other trash, which keeps mold and bacteria out of the nest. As ‘cool’ as it is to imagine that the ants have some level of sentience that will allow for altruistic behavior, it’s just not possible.”
David Notton, Senior Curator of Hymenoptera at the Natural History Museum, London considers the bee an “obstacle.”
“[It’s] hard to say as the locality and type of ant is not clear, but most probably they are harvester ants (vegetarian) taking petals back to their nest as food, and a dead bee has somehow ended up on top of the nest entrance,” he explained. “That is to say, the bee may be more of an obstacle for the ants if it is preventing them taking food down their burrow.”
“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),” Thomas O’Shea-Wheller, a postdoctoral researcher of entomology at Louisiana State University explained.
“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’.”
Watch the video below, and tell us what you think.