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I seem to recall that bees and wasps have alert pheromones, so that if a few of them are killed or attacked in the proximity of others, they will attract backup.

I assume it's pretty straightforward how this would work out if I were to start swatting bees next to their hive, but how does it work if they're killed by... a plant?

Would the bees try to sting or choke the plant? And if it doesn't work would they ever give up? Would they alternatively realize it's a plant and therefore can neither be compelled to move nor harmed by venom? If so would they be aware they can do more damage to it with their mandibles than with their stingers?

Conceptually, I guess the experiment would be pretty easy — placing an array of carnivorous plants right in front of a beehive — except my carnivorous plants are still very small and rarely eat, and I don't own bees and don't have any wasp nests in the area.

Has anybody tried this or observed it in the wild?

I'd also be curious whether it's any different for e.g. Venus flytraps and pitcher plants. The former would likely get filled up rather fast if swarmed, whereas the latter could be able to swallow a large part of a hive. Also, venus flytraps actually move, so perhaps that might trip off the animal-pattern-recognition of the insects whereas a pitcher plant might more readily be identified as a plant.

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  • $\begingroup$ There is a rather easily discovered Reddit thread about "bees stinging inanimate objects" where pest exterminators have chimed to say that bees do sting anything they perceive as a thread whether animate or inanimate objects, and that only when stinging mammals do they lose their stinger since mammal muscles contract upon stinging causing the stinger to become lodged. They claim when other things are stung they are either too hard or the stinger can be pulled out. I have not checked the veracity of these claims. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 8, 2023 at 20:33

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I'm not going to directly answer your question (which I think is an interesting one) because I do not have the data. However, I do want to share some anecdotal experience with you. (As such, my answer should not be accepted, but rather supplemental.)

Insects trapped by plants appear to be just that: trapped by a plant. They react much differently in a flytrap, for example, than in the palm of a hand. In other words, their reaction seems much more passive vs aggressive -- even when I've seen this happen to hymenopterans. It's almost as if they view the situation as a part of their surroundings shrinking around them vs some form of aggressor trying to "eat" them. It's actually quite interesting that insect brains seem to interpret the entrapment as an unfortunate stochastic act of their environment vs an intentional form of aggression.

You can watch Venus flytraps eating yellow jackets via this YouTube video: Venus Flytrap Eats Wasps || ViralHog.

Notice two things:

  • To my point, take a look at the 3:30 minute mark. Two yellow jackets are trapped, and they both struggle to get free. But at no point do I see any signs of a stinger. In other words, these yellow jackets never try to attack their entrapper.

  • Related to your specific question: no other individuals are reacting when one of their own is trapped. (admittedly, this is away from the nest, and hive-mentality protective behavior while foraging is different vs protecting young of the hive)

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you, this is in fact very interesting, though I'm unsure much can be concluded from it. I also see no stinger, but the abdomen movement around youtu.be/FMMNPKyaedo?t=212 looks like it might be trying to sting. Indeed no backup comes, but as you say, this might be because it's not close enough to the hive. $\endgroup$
    – TheChymera
    Feb 8, 2023 at 8:47

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