Animals continue to impress humans with their behaviors, often too intricate for us to fully understand. In such situations, people try to relate human emotions and experiences to their world.
Nicole Webinger, a local from Minnesota, witnessed a strange sight. She captured a video of an ant colony appearing to organize a funeral procession for a deceased bumblebee.
“I saw this outside my workplace near the garden. There was a dead bumblebee, and the ants were bringing flower petals and leaving them around the bumblebee. It looked like they were holding a funeral for it,” Webinger wrote on her post.
The video quickly went viral and sparked a larger discussion about the animal kingdom.
Mark Elgar, a behavioral ecologist from the University of Melbourne, said he would even use it to teach first-year biology and demonstrate the power of suggestion. He explained that although it might seem like the ants were conducting a funeral for the bumblebee, it was probably a natural occurrence of a different kind.
“My assumption is that the bee is positioned above the ants’ nest opening, which is why several ants are gathered around the bee, with more ants bringing flower petals,” Elgar commented. “Of course, it may be entirely staged. Someone may have intentionally placed the bee there, anticipating this beautiful image.”
Experts say that when bees and ants die, they release a chemical compound called oleic acid. The ants may have stumbled upon the dead bumblebee while collecting flowers and assumed it was one of their own. Ants have a habit of carrying their dead colony members.
“Bees and ants belong to the same family (Hymenoptera), so their dead bodies will release similar pheromones when they die. Ants protect their nest and ‘bury’ their dead sisters as far away from the nest as possible,” said Dana Kendall of Ants Canada.
Another theory is that the ants were attempting to mask the bee’s scent from potential predators so that they could consume it themselves. It’s also possible that the ants were simply creating a garbage heap.
“It’s difficult to say since the location and type of ant are unclear, but most likely they are harvester ants (vegetarian) carrying petals back to their nest as food, and a dead bee has somehow ended up on top of the nest entrance,” said David Botton, senior curator of Hymenoptera at the Natural History Museum in London. “That is to say, the bee may be more of a hindrance to the ants if it is preventing them from taking food down their burrow.”
Although no one is certain about this incredible event, the video certainly captured the interest of many netizens and even experts in the field.
Watch the video below.