To bee or not to bee

Flowers are rare in the Australian outback, so colonies of bees are few and far between. Female Dawson's bees, one of the largest bees in the world, dig tunnels for their young to grow up in. There are no males around at this time and the female bees are quite peaceable - tempers only flare if one bee gets confused and enters the wrong hole. But earlier in the season, as the females emerge from their tunnels for the mating season males gather, attracted to and inflamed by the scent of the females. They are huge and built for fighting, and violence erupts as they jostle for the best position near the nesting tunnels. Unusually in the animal kingdom, the males will sting and bite each other to death for the opportunity to mate. Some females accidentally end up as casualties, caught in the crossfire. By the end of the season, when all the females have emerged, all the males are dead once more and only the strongest will have mated. Underground the next generation is developing.

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4 minutes


Role Contributor
NarratorDavid Attenborough
ProducerMartha Holmes
Executive ProducerMichael Gunton

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