Honey Bee Queens Need More Hugging Hunny
A single female bee, surrounded by 1000's of hard working bachelor....eunuchs. That's the everyday life for honey bee colony queens, and to make things worse - sterile worker bees can excommunicate her for good.
So why are some queen bees more popular amongst the working bee class, while others are ousted? According to a recent article published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS), "Effects of Insemination Quantity on Honey Bee Queen Physiology", the more sexual partners the queen has, the longer her reign will last.
By artificially inseminating queen bees (a difficult task, no doubt), researchers found that worker bees from colonies ruled by queens inseminated with semen from numerous males were much more popular with the worker bees.
According to the authors, queens that had more sexual partners prior
to ruling their colony, “…elicit(ed) a “retinue response”, in which
workers are attracted from a distance (several cm) and then antennate
and groom the queen.”
The physiological basis for the worker bees’ extra
attention to their frisky queens appears to be related to pheromones
secreted by the queen - the more mates, the more attractive they become.
According to the authors, "... the glands of the inseminated queens were more attractive than gland of virgins, while the gland extracts of (multi-drone inseminated) queens were more attractive than gland of (single-drone inseminated) queens."
I wonder how popular such a societal scheme would be among humans...