According to a study published in ASM Journals, a tropical species of bee developed a tooth that allows you to eat meat and intestines with characteristics similar to those of a scavenger animal.
Researchers believe that this particular evolution in the animal is due to the high competence of bees to obtain pollen and nectar, their main food.
“They are the only bees in the world capable of having other sources of food outside of plants, which means a surprising change in daily diet of the insect, “said Carlos Vergara, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, who is part of the team.
Change after 80 million years
Bumblebees and stingless bees have intestines with five main microbes. “Unlike humans, whose insides change with each meal, most species of bees retained the same bacteria for about 80 million years of evolution“explained Jessica Maccaro, a doctoral student in entomology at UCR.
Given this radical change in diet, the research team set out to travel to Costa Rica to study bees more closely. There they left pieces of raw chicken hung on branches as bait.
As a result, they saw that the bait attracted scavenger bees in search of protein. Normally, bees have “baskets” on their hind legs to collect pollen. In the case of the scavengers, in the baskets they collected pieces of chicken.
Bees with scavenger intestines
The team compared three types of stingless bees: those that feed on both meat and flowers; those that only eat pollen or those that only eat meat. By analyzing the microbiomes of the three types of bees, they found the most extreme changes in which they feed exclusively meat.
“The microbiome of the ‘vulture bee’ is composed of bacteria similar to those found in royal vultures, as well as hyenas and other animals that feed on carrion, possibly to protect them from pathogens that appear on carrion, “said Quinn McFrederick, one of the researchers.
One of the bacteria present in vulture bees is Lactobacillus, which is found in many fermented foods of humans, such as the sourdough.
Another curiosity that the researchers found is that, although they eat meat, their honey is still sweet and edible. “They store the meat in special chambers that are sealed for two weeks before accessing it, and these chambers are separate from where the honey is stored,” Maccaro said.