Hot summer days aren’t just affecting humans. Over the last few years, honey bees have been dying in the millions because of climate change and a study now shows exactly how they suffer their fate when it gets too hot.
Research reveals that the insects will literally ejaculate themselves to death in extreme heat. Male worker bees busy themselves during the day providing for the hive, which is hard work. When they become subjected to very high temperatures, their bodies begin to convulse, which forces them to ejaculate their abdomen-sized penis-equivalent completely out of their body and die from shock.
Sounds intense. “When drones die from shock, they spontaneously ejaculate. They have this elaborate endophallus that comes out and is about the size of their own abdomen. It’s pretty extreme,” Dr. Alison McAffee, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories focusing on bee health, said.
Bees need to maintain a body temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold and they’ll become immobile. Too hot and they’re likely to die within six hours. With intense heatwaves hitting moderate climates, scientists are trying to look at developing new ways to cool them down.
“We know that after six hours at 42 degrees Celcius (107 degrees Fahrenheit), half of drones will die of heat stress. The more sensitive ones start to perish at two, or three hours. That’s a temperature they shouldn’t normally experience, but we were seeing drones getting stressed to the point of death,” Dr. McAfee said.
Dr. McAfee and her team conducted a series of experiments to test hive insulation materials to prevent another wave of deaths from happening during future heatwaves. Methods have included coating beehives in a protective polystyrene cover, which helps cool beehives by up to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.