Honeybees change roles to avoid mid-life crisis

April 4th, 2009 - 1:20 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 4 (ANI): Adding to the impressive list of bee qualities, scientists have now found that honeybees go through a metamorphosis in their mid-life and perform different social roles as they age.

Female worker bees work in the hive as they venture into adulthood, and perform tasks like taking care of the baby bees.

However, when they are 2-3 weeks old, almost equal to middle age in human years, they make a major career change and switch to foraging for nectar and pollen.

And as foraging requires new skills, a middle-age bee is required to navigate to and from feeding sites and communicate the location of food to other bees (sometimes with a fantastic waggle).

Thus, in the remainder of her short life, the bee becomes a frequent flier and racks up hundreds of miles in her lifetime.

In the study, researchers from Brazil and Cuba analysed hundreds of bee brains, comparing proteins produced at the direction of genes in nurses vs. foragers.

It was found that the brains of nurse bees have higher levels of proteins involved in caste determination in the complex society of these insects.

Conversely, the brains of experienced foragers have more proteins linked to other vital activities, such as energy production.

The scientists concluded that the proteomes (the set of proteins expressed by their genes) are quite different.

“Our study demonstrated clear brain proteome differences between honey bee nurse and forager subcastes with distinct social roles,” Live Science quoted the researchers as saying.

The study has been published in the Journal of Proteome Research, a publication of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)

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