If you see a bunch of ants running crazily around on the sidewalk, you don't stand there and wonder what their master plan is. They're ants -- they're probably just blindly scurrying in random directions, waiting to get stepped on. But we should stop every now and then and remember that, from a distance, everything humans do also looks like pointless bullshit.
Sure enough, when scientists look closely at insects, we find that it's startling how organized and strategic they can be in their movements. And when you watch insects go to war, well, it pretty much looks just like us ...
6Beetles Make Shields ... and Join Them in Battle Formation
Remember in 300 when all of the Spartans formed up with their shields to create one solid wall of defense? The Romans did it, too, a tight group of soldiers raising their shields on all sides, creating an unstoppable sandal-powered battle tank. Well, here's what it looks like when a bunch of baby tortoise beetles do the exact same thing:
"Hey, we're a bit lost. Which way is Gaul?"
First of all, when we say that these bugs use shields, you might assume that means they're born with a hard shell, but as larvae they actually start out just as squishy and vulnerable as a month-old banana. So, they have to quickly learn to overcome this little inadequacy by building crude shields out of their own dead skin and feces to wield against predators. Let's say that again: The tortoise beetle larva protects itself from danger by swinging around a poop shield.
Known in proper entomologist terms as the "Dude ... gross" strategy.
But even the advanced shit-on-a-stick approach to protection isn't always enough to safeguard the beetles, so some larvae came upon the brilliant idea to band together and join their shields to create an impenetrable barrier of +5 protection and +10 total gross-out. Their version of this phalanx strategy is known as cycloalexy. The guards keep their fecal shields turned outward, while the feeders inside the circle keep their shields held overhead. When something gets too close to their defensive barrier, it usually gets the crap beaten out of it by the bugs' crap cudgels.
The best defense is a good offense, and it doesn't get much more offensive than shit bludgeoning.
5Bees Lay Siege to Enemy Hives for Weeks at a Time
If you know anything about the history of warfare, or have just seen the second Lord of the Rings movie, you know what ancient human warfare looked like: An army would decide to invade a city, the opposing army would hunker down behind its walls, and the two sides would settle in to a long and bloody siege. Well, want to know what it looks like when a swarm of bees decides to take over another hive? Pretty much the same thing:
Australian Native Bee Research Centre
"Fuck this. Why don't we make a giant fake horse out of honeycomb?"
Yeah, that massive pile of corpses is the horrific aftermath of a bee siege. Experts have found that prolonged assault on an enemy's fortification is a battle strategy strangely favored by the Trigona genus. Large swarms of them will travel to another colony and buzz around outside until the guards come out of the hive and start grappling with them in midair. Once they've incapacitated each other with their jaws (they don't have stingers), the bees will then tumble to the floor and start wrestling to death, creating a fuzzy, twitching carpet of corpses and hatred that would make Genghis Khan queasy.
John Pritchard, via YouTube
Sure puts the cost of honey into perspective.
And when we compare this to a drawn-out siege, we mean it -- the fighting can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The attackers will settle in, occasionally charging the enemy, trying to win a battle of attrition. And just like human wars, they tend to spread -- once word of the fighting gets out (via alarm pheromones bees excrete when they're locked in mortal combat), other hives join in. They've observed bees from up to seven nearby hives all swarming to get in on the action in one massive orgy of death.