Worker honeybees cheat their way to royalty

November 30th, 2007 - 2:23 pm ICT by admin  

Melbourne, November 30 (ANI): A genetic analysis of South African Cape honeybees, a sub-species of the Western honeybees, has revealed that worker bees overthrow the monarchy by sneaking their eggs into the colony so that their offspring be raised as royals.

University of Sydney researcher Lyndon Jordan says that the workers infiltrate the host colony by wearing “queen perfume” that prevent them from being detected, and then lay their eggs in specially prepared “queen cells” where the egg is raised by the colony as if it were from its own queen.

She has revealed in an article published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal that 23 out of 39 new queens produced by seven colonies in her study were offspring of workers, and not the resident queen.

The article also states that eight of the new queens were laid by resident workers, while most were offspring of parasitic workers from other colonies.

Jordan, a PhD student from the universitys School of Biological Sciences, says that the Cape honeybees are unique because the workers among them produce females from unfertilised eggs in a process known as thelytoky.

This process opens up a whole range of reproductive options for the worker bees, and allows them to hijack the colony by competing with the queen to produce the next royal generation, Jordan adds.

“Normally a worker is a terminating genetic line. But these bees can be the mothers of the new queens,” ABC Science Online quoted her as saying.

Jordan says that the parasitic worker bees have the potential to become genetically reincarnated as queens and “genetically immortal” because offspring produced by thelytoky are “pseudo-clones of their mothers”.

According to her, the successful reproduction of a parasitic queen bee has the potential to terminate the colony’s genetic line and replace it with its own.

“We always knew these Cape workers could produce females but we never knew how far they were willing to push that,” Jordan said.

She further said that all the bees in a colony worked together for a common good.

“But it is barely restrained chaos with everyone being as selfish as they can while still keeping the colony viable,” she added.

Jordon, however, said that an unrelated intruder would not care about the long-term viability of the colony. (ANI)

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