Saturday, 5 May 2012

Family disputes create rebel bees

Worker bees rebel when faced with the prospect of raising their nephews and nieces, research has found.
Scientists in Poland have studied post-swarm bee colonies to understand how workers react to a change in queen.
They discovered that when a daughter replaces her mother as head of the colony, some worker bees reproduce instead of caring for their monarch's offspring.
The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.
Prof Michal Woyciechowski from the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Jagiellonian University in Poland led the research.
In a honey bee colony there is a single fertile queen and thousands of fertile male drones, all supported by the queen's sterile daughters, which are known as workers.
Swarming is a natural occurrence in which the queen and part of her colony leave en masse to find a new nest site.
Before she leaves, the queen bee lays a number of eggs, one of which will develop into a new fertile queen supported by the remaining workers.
In this case, Prof Woyciechowski explained, rather than rearing their brothers and sisters, "workers are obligated to rear nieces and nephews".
"This drop in relatedness causes the old queen's workers to lay their own eggs."

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