A feathered foe from long ago
Tokyo is plagued by crows. Not crowds (well, that's debatable) and definitely not cows, but crows. Noisy, aggressive flocks of crows have become such a huge problem that Tokyo city authorities have turned to nature in a desperate effort to combat the ravenous ravens – thousands of stinging bees!
When all else fails, fight flyer with flyer – and that's just what's happening in the skies over Tokyo. Yessiree folks, it's bees vs crows in a honey of a battle. Forget everything you learned about the birds & the bees... well, let's not get carried away, but in this interspecies sequel to The Sting there's no sweetness to be had. Unless, of course, we include the 660 pounds of honey sold by the nonprofit Ginza Bee Project.
Let's backtrack a little. According to my lovely and charming wife who grew up in Tokyo, crows were always something of a nuisance but nothing like today's black plague.
Part of the problem is garbage – having no large landfills, Tokyo's garbage tends to sit outside until carted away, and in the interval becomes a fetid feast for the winged scavengers. It should also be mentioned that Tokyo crows aren't like the American Crows most of us are familiar with. Nope, these are crows on steroids, Terminator crows, Corvus Maximus as it were. They're big, mean, sport wickedly curved beaks and travel in flying wolfpacks. Hitchcock would approve.
The last straw; the one that broke the camel's back, came when a flying circus of 60 Tokyo crows descended on the nesting grounds of the migratory Little Tern near Haneda airport.
Nearly 60 crows pillaged the nests of this threatened species of seabird, destroying approximately 300 eggs and 160 fledgling terns according to an article in National Geographic.
Since having birds nest near an airport is a good thing (huh?), authorities turned to the Ginza Bee Project. Researchers had previously noted that honey bees tended to attack dark objects moving in the vicinity of their hives – likely an evolved response to honey-seeking black bears.
Anecdotal evidence shows that honey bees will also attack and drive off crows, so the Ginza Bee Project conducted a delicate bee hive removal operation, shifting several hives containing 20,000 bees to the area where the light-colored Little Terns nest. It seems to be working. Crowed, er, stated Naoya Masuda of the nonprofit Little Tern Project, the two creatures are getting on "like good neighbors."
At press time we had no bee-movies of the airborne carnage – the crow-cams aren't ready yet and the bee-cams are squishing every bee they've been strapped to.
Even so, enlisting Mother Nature is better than resorting to chemicals and pesticides... well, unless you want to talk about Kudzu, Cane Toads and africanized honey bees - and we don't. Plus, it gives me a chance to use that neato Ninja Bee pic i've been saving for ages.
Most importantly, the 150,000 honey bees patrolling Tokyo's high-rent Ginza district haven't turned shoppers into fashionable pin-cushions ala Henry Winkler in Little Nicky. At least, not yet...