Other social insects mount attacks, too, Prudic says. Japanese giant hornets assault the hives of their prey, Japanese honeybees. The bees retaliate by swarming lone hornet scouts with vibrating wings.
Hornets From Hell
They can kill forty bees a minute. A small gang can lay waste to an entire bee colony leaving thousands of severed heads and wings in their wake.
Sometimes, adds University of Florida entomologist Philip Koehler, perceived enemies get along. For instance, “it's common for ants and termites to cohabit nests,” he says by email.
Do other animals go to war? Since our close relative the chimpanzee is often thought of as war-like, we took the question to Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher, a primate behavioral ecologist at the University of Kent.
“It probably depends on the definition of ‘war,'” Newton-Fisher says by email. “There’s good evidence that chimpanzees conduct deliberate raids on neighbouring communities, and that this can lead to annexing of territory."
Some chimpanzees in Uganda (pictured, animals in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park) have been observed ganging up and killing chimps in neighboring groups.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GERRY ELLIS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
“The behaviour of chimpanzees is much more akin to a guerrilla band"—wearing down the enemy—than what we think of as a traditional battle, Newton-Fisher says.
Unlike humans, chimps don't “form into opposing armies, and fight it out to see who wins,” nor do “two communities ally to defeat a third.”
Animal groups do compete over resources, sometimes in an organized way, but “war” implies something more formal, Dan Dembiec, supervisor of mammals at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, says via email.
Bottom line? The term "war" is “inappropriate to describe conflict in the non-human animal kingdom,” he says.
We're ok with that—as long as they don’t fight for the Dark Side.
Weird Animal Question of the Week answers your questions every Saturday. If you have a question about the weird and wild animal world, tweet me, leave me a note or photo in the comments below, or find me on Facebook.
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