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Why Don't Honey Bees Revolt?

It's good to be queen. Consider the queen bee, whose attendants feed and groom her all day and caress her lovingly with their antennae. It turns out that the queen's pheromones actually create this love fest. The queen bee's intoxicating scent gets transferred to her subjects throughout the colony, keeping all those in the bee working class loyal and calm.

Researchers in New Zealand have also determined that this scent, which is heavy with a chemical called homovanillyl alcohol, or HVA, prevents worker bees from developing aversions. This means that undergoing a negative experience around the queen won't create a palace revolt.

More about bee behavior:

  • HVA, one of many compounds coating the queen's body, has a striking chemical similarity to dopamine.
  • The queen's pheromones also block ovary development in worker bees.
  • Older bees don't tend to the queen as much as young ones. They're more interested in the search for nectar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why don't honey bees revolt against their queen?

Honey bees do not revolt against their queen primarily due to their genetic predisposition for cooperation and the pheromones the queen emits, which help maintain social harmony. The queen's pheromones regulate the colony's activities and suppress the worker bees' urge to reproduce, ensuring their focus remains on colony tasks rather than power struggles.

How do pheromones affect the behavior of honey bees?

Pheromones play a crucial role in the social structure of a honey bee colony. They are chemical signals secreted by the queen and other members that influence behavior and physiological responses. For instance, queen mandibular pheromone helps to maintain the social order, suppresses ovary development in workers, and attracts males during mating flights.

What would happen if a honey bee colony lost its queen?

If a honey bee colony loses its queen, it faces potential collapse. Worker bees quickly detect the absence of queen pheromones and begin emergency measures to raise a new queen by feeding selected larvae with royal jelly. If they fail to produce a new queen, the colony will eventually die out due to the lack of reproduction.

Can worker bees become queens?

Worker bees have the potential to become queens, but this is determined early in their larval stage. If a larva is fed royal jelly continuously by worker bees, it can develop into a queen. This usually occurs as part of emergency queen rearing if the existing queen dies or is failing, or during the process of swarming when the colony is dividing.

Do honey bees ever replace their queen without human intervention?

Yes, honey bees can replace their queen without human intervention through a natural process called "supersedure." When the current queen's pheromone production wanes or she becomes less productive, worker bees may raise a new queen to take over. This ensures the continuity and health of the colony.

What is the lifespan of a honey bee queen, and how does it compare to workers?

The lifespan of a honey bee queen can be up to 3-4 years, which is significantly longer than that of worker bees, who typically live for only a few weeks to a few months, depending on the time of year and workload. The queen's longevity is due to her specialized diet of royal jelly and her protected role within the hive.

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