Study sheds light on famous honeybee society caste system

A new study has been undertaken to understand the famous caste system that dominates honeybee societies, with a select few bee larvae destined for royalty and the masses for worker status.

The study, which is a joint work of scientists from China and Ethiopia, notes that schoolchildren learn that the one queen bee in a colony develops from larvae fed royal jelly, a protein-rich secretion from glands on the heads of worker bees, whereas other larvae develop into female workers or male drones.

“The female queen is large in size and specializes in reproduction whereas workers are small and engage in colony-maintaining activities,” the scientists said.

“Their life spans also vary, with the queen living for 1 to 2 years and the workers living only 6 to 7 weeks.

“To gain further information, the scientists looked at proteins inside the cells of larvae destined for queen and worker status,” they added.

The findings of the study reveal major differences, during early stages of life, in the activity of proteins in the mitochondria, structures that produce energy for cells including changes in the amounts of protein produced in cells and the activity of those proteins.

The study has been published in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research.

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