According to a recent study, some bees in tropical areas have become vultures. A US scientific team travelled to Costa Rica and discovered unique gut microbes allowing bees to digest dead animals’ meat instead of flower nectar.
“They are the only bees on the planet that can use foods other than plants. This is quite a remarkable shift in diet habits.,” said University of California, Riverside entomologist Doug Yanega in a press release that was published on Tuesday.
According to the scientists, the unexpected change in the insects’ food preferences might be explained by “There is intense competition for nectar.”
The research was conducted in Costa Rica by entomologists who compared microbiomes of the bees’ relatives, who eat meat or flowers and also those that only eat pollen. The most drastic changes were found in the microbiomes of vulture stingless bees, which they found to contain novel bacteria.
“The vulture bee microbiome is enriched in acid-loving bacteria, which are novel bacteria that their relatives don’t have,” UCR entomologist Quinn McFrederick said. “The bacteria is similar to those found in vultures and other carrion-feeders. This is presumably because they help to protect against pathogens from carrion..”
The researchers noted that though vulture bees can’t sting, many of them are “The experience was very unpleasant.” Some of them produce blister-causing secretions that might cause painful sores. However, these bees’ honey is sweet and edible, claim the scientists.
“Special chambers used for meat storage are kept sealed up for two weeks. They are also separate from the places where honey is kept.” Maccaro explained.
Researchers published their study in the American Society of Microbiologists journal mBio. They plan to continue the research.
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