Nav: Home

Worker bees select royal (sub)family members, not their own supersisters, to be new queens

July 11, 2018

When honey bees need a new emergency queen, they forego the chance to promote members of their own worker subfamilies, opting instead to nurture larvae of "royal" subfamilies, according to a study published July 11 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by James Withrow and David Tarpy of North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

When a queen suddenly dies, workers must select a group of larvae to raise as emergency queens, so the question arises whether workers tend to select larvae of their own subfamily over those of others, thus promoting their own genes at the expense of those from other subfamilies.

Here, the authors examined DNA from an average of 92 workers and 85 emergency queens from 6 different colonies. They found that the number of subfamilies per colony ranged from 34 to 77, vastly outnumbering previous estimates. By comparing the DNA of the emergency queens to that of the colony's subfamilies, they found that the majority of emergency queens were raised from subfamilies with very few members, many of which are so rare that they are mostly undetected in typical colony sampling of workers. Thus the authors argued, workers chose members of other "royal" subfamilies over their own "supersisters" to become new queens.

The characteristics that distinguish these lucky larvae from their hive mates are still unknown, as are many of the factors in play that override a possible "selfish gene" drive that might otherwise reward choosing one's own family members for the royal treatment. "While many of the specific details and mechanisms are still to be determined," Withrow said, "at this point we may safely conclude that, while inclusive fitness for nepotism may favor the individual level during emergency queen rearing, that advantage is profoundly overridden by opposing selective forces acting at multiple levels favoring cooperation and altruism."

The study strengthens the evidence that "the good of the hive" overpowers the narrow genetically selfish interests of individual workers.

Withrow adds: "While we already knew that honey bee queens mate with a large number of drones to bring genetic diversity into their colonies, this study suggests that many of a queen's mates are fathering only a tiny fraction of her total offspring. But workers are preferentially selecting members of these cryptic subfamilies for rearing into new queens."
-end-
In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199124

Citation: Withrow JM, Tarpy DR (2018) Cryptic "royal" subfamilies in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. PLoS ONE 13(7): e0199124. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0199124

Funding: National Honey Board, https://www.honey.com/, DRT. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, http://www.ncagr.gov/, DRT. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, (14-8130-0360-CA), https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home/, DRT. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, https://www.ars.usda.gov/, DRT. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLOS

Related Honey Bees Articles:

Probiotics could improve survival rates in honey bees exposed to pesticide, study finds
In a new study from Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson) and Western University, researchers have shown that probiotics can potentially protect honey bees from the toxic effects of pesticides.
Mountain honey bees have ancient adaptation for high-altitude foraging
Mountain-dwelling East African honey bees have distinct genetic variations compared to their savannah relatives that likely help them to survive at high altitudes, report Martin Hasselmann of the University of Hohenheim, Germany, Matthew Webster of Uppsala University, Sweden, and colleagues May 25, 2017, in PLOS Genetics.
Scientists say agriculture is good for honey bees
Scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health.
Honey bees have sharper eyesight than we thought
Research conducted at the University of Adelaide has discovered that bees have much better vision than was previously known, offering new insights into the lives of honey bees, and new opportunities for translating this knowledge into fields such as robot vision.
To save honey bees, human behavior must change
In the search for answers to the complex health problems and colony losses experienced by honey bees in recent years, it may be time for professionals and hobbyists in the beekeeping industry to look in the mirror.
Almond-crop fungicides a threat to honey bees
Fungicides commonly used in almond orchards can be harmful to almond growers' primary pollinator: honey bees.
At mealtime, honey bees prefer country blossoms to city blooms
Hungry honey bees appear to favor flowers in agricultural areas over those in neighboring urban areas.
Scientists reveal core genes involved in immunity of honey bees
A core set of genes involved in the responses of honey bees to multiple diseases caused by viruses and parasites has been identified by an international team of researchers.
Despite few taste genes, honey bees seek out essential nutrients based on floral resources
A study led by Tufts University scientists found that despite having few taste genes, honey bees are fine-tuned to know what minerals the colony may lack and proactively seek out nutrients in conjunction with the season when their floral diet varies.
Sweat bees on hot chillies: Native bees thrive in traditional farming, securing good yield
Farming doesn't always have to be harmful to bees: Even though farmers on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan traditionally slash-and-burn forest to create small fields, this practice can be beneficial to sweat bees by creating attractive habitats.

Related Honey Bees Reading:

The Beekeeper's Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses
by Richard Jones (Author), Sharon Sweeney-Lynch (Author)

Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees, 2nd Edition: Honey Production, Pollination, Health (Storey’s Guide to Raising)
by Malcolm T. Sanford (Author), Richard E. Bonney (Author)

Honeybee Democracy
by Thomas D. Seeley (Author)

Explore My World: Honey Bees
by Jill Esbaum (Author)

The Life and Times of the Honeybee
by Charles Micucci (Author)

Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees: Honey Production, Pollination, Bee Health (Storey’s Guide to Raising)
by Malcolm T. Sanford (Author), Richard E. Bonney (Author)

The Honeybee
by Kirsten Hall (Author), Isabelle Arsenault (Illustrator)

Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive
by Stephen Buchmann (Author)

100 Plants to Feed the Bees: Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive
by The Xerces Society (Author)

Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, Revised Edition
by Dewey M. Caron (Author), Lawrence John Connor (Author), Robert G. Muir (Editor), Ann Harman (Editor), David Heskes (Editor), Jon Zawislak (Editor)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why We Hate
From bullying to hate crimes, cruelty is all around us. So what makes us hate? And is it learned or innate? This hour, TED speakers explore the causes and consequences of hate — and how we can fight it. Guests include reformed white nationalist Christian Picciolini, CNN commentator Sally Kohn, podcast host Dylan Marron, and writer Anand Giridharadas.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#482 Body Builders
This week we explore how science and technology can help us walk when we've lost our legs, see when we've gone blind, explore unfriendly environments, and maybe even make our bodies better, stronger, and faster than ever before. We speak to Adam Piore, author of the book "The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human", about the increasingly amazing ways bioengineering is being used to reverse engineer, rebuild, and augment human beings. And we speak with Ken Thomas, spacesuit engineer and author of the book "The Journey to Moonwalking: The People That Enabled Footprints on the Moon" about...