Bees ejaculating to death due to severe heatwaves as population in danger

The bee population is under threat due to the recent heatwave across Europe, with many ejaculating themselves to death under the burning sun.

In severe heat, male honey bees are most at risk – they begin to convulse, ejaculate explosively, then die.

As temperatures have breached 40C this week, it is estimated that half of them will die in this manner within six hours, with more sensitive individuals dying after only two or three hours.

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Dr Alison McAfee, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Michael Smith Laboratories, said: “We don’t know exactly why but drones ejaculate when they get too stressed.

“Ejaculation kills them because it basically eviscerates their abdomen. This happens during natural mating too – drone honey bees always die after mating.”

Temperature is a big stress factor for male honey bees and because they possess half the chromosomes as female worker bees, they are therefore more susceptible to pesticides and severe heat.

Although it is the female bees who make honey, the males also play a vital part to the hive’s hierarchy, helping to create future generations of workers.

“High quality male honey bees are essential for supporting adequate mating of queens, whose longevity depends on the number and quality of sperm acquired during nuptial flights,” said writers in the Communications Biology paper.

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If these male bees start passing away because of the severe heat then this will have serious repercussions on the honey bee population, with queen bees struggling to find mates and produce new offspring.

"Their large size and furry coat are adaptations to thriving in cool conditions — bumblebees are most common in temperate, montane and polar regions and few can survive in the [Mediterranean ]," said bee ecologist, Dave Goulson.

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