Animals are pretty amazing, but are they capable of planning funerals? One person caught some ants acting strangely and had to videotape it. In the video, some ants can be seen picking flower petals and piling them under a dead bumblebee. It looks like they are attempting to have a funeral for the bumblebee.
Nicole Webinger recorded the strange behavior.
She posted in on social media, saying:
“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.”
The video might not be as simple as that. Mark Elgar, a biologist at the University of Melbourne, recently explained:
“It’s a great video. I’ll use it for teaching the 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?”
He explained that there is not, in fact, a bee funeral taking place here.
While it may look like the ants are strategically placing the flower petals under the bee, they may just be moving them from one place to the next for a different reason.
Both bees and ants release a chemical called oleic acid. When bees die, other bees toss them out of the nest. When ants die, other ants take them to a midden heap. The bees are likely responding to the scent of the dead bee. Still, Elgar isn’t sure that is the case, either. He said:
“The chemical signals that ants respond to can be context dependent, otherwise they’d be shifting dead things all over the place. So, they may be responding to oleic acid, some foolish workers trying to drag the bee into the nest. It’s not quite as crazy as it might seem, but I think it’s rather unlikely.”
Elgar believes that people are seeing what they want to see in the video.
He explained that the ants would have no reason to bury the bee. He thinks the video is interesting, but most people aren’t getting a real understanding of what’s taking place. He added:
“Thinking outside of the box is always really helpful. What the person is suggesting is that the ants are behaving in a completely different way in anticipation of something that hasn’t formed part of their experience. That’s a big ask for an ant.”
Elgar has a theory about what is really happening in the video.
“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.”
Elgar said that someone also could have created the scene to be funny. Maybe someone was there right before the video was taken and decided to play a little prank.
“Of course, it might be a complete setup. Someone actually put the bee there thinking this might happen, creating this lovely image.”
Of course, we may never know what is really going on in the video.
One hypothesis could be just as correct as another. Maybe these ants really are morning the loss of this bee, or maybe it is just a prank or random occurrence. Either way, it’s a pretty neat video.
Bumblebees were recently added to the endangered species list. Maybe these ants are really morning the loss of a species? That’s a little deep for an insect. However, we should all make it a point to try to help save these amazing animals before they are gone for good.
This “bee funeral” may be a little dramatic, but it may also send a powerful message.
Maybe these ants know something we don’t and are trying to tell us to protect bumblebees before it’s too late. If only humans could open their minds more, we might understand their message.
Watch the footage below – you be the judge.
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Source: Science Alert