Animals continue to amaze humans with their behavior, oftentimes too complex for us to even understand. In times like that, people would find a way to incorporate human experience and emotion into their world.
Nicole Webinger, a resident from Minnesota, saw a strange phenomenon. She took a video showing an ant colony looking like they were organizing a funeral rite for a dead bumblebee.
“Saw this outside of my work by the garden. There was a dead bumblebee, and we were watching the ants bring flower petals and leaving them around the bumblebee. It looked like there were having a funeral for it,” Webinger wrote on her post.
The clip quickly went viral and prompted a larger conversation on the animal kingdom.
Mark Elgar, behavioral ecologist from the University of Melbourne, said he’ll even be using it in teaching first-year biology to illustrate the power of suggestion. He explained that it may look like the ants holding a funeral for the bumblebee, but in reality, it was most likely a natural occurrence of a different sort.
“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 pets sitting around the bee, including more ants arriving with petals,” Elgar added. “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 a compound called oleic acid when they die, according to experts. It could be that the ants found the dead bumblebee while transporting flower petals and thought it was one of them. Ants have a practice of transporting their deceased members of their colonies.
“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,” said Dana Kendall of Ants Canada.
Another theory is that ants were trying to hide the scent of the bee from other potential predators, so they can eat it themselves. It could also be that the ants were simply creating a trash heap.
“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,” said David Botton, senior curator of Hymenoptera at the Natural History Museum in London. “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.”
While no one is entirely sure about the phenomenal event, the video surely fascinated a lot of netizens and even experts in the field.
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