New Finding Explains Assignment Of Duties In The Beehive
Worker bees seem enslaved to their daily tasks during the spring and summer months. During this time, female honeybees are busy collecting a sufficient amount of pollen to tide the entire colony over through the winter when they are dormant.
While the sole purpose of a male bee is to mate with the queen, female honeybees- worker bees- are responsible for a variety of duties to achieve a common goal shared by each buzzing body in the colony: sustain the hive.
Until recently, entomologists were not certain how worker bees were assigned to each of the numerous tasks available to preserve the hive. The genetic code in each member of the female bees was identical and provided insufficient evidence that their genes influenced job assignment.
Now researchers claim the contributing factor to what causes workers bees to take on different roles inside the hive is the chemical that attaches to their genes.
The chemical can alter which genes are turned on or off, termed “epigenetic” patterns, thus changing how the bee’s brain functions. When one certain chemical tag latches on to their genes, this will instinctively cause a bee to perform one specific duty, a bee completing another job will have another chemical pattern attached to its genes.
To test the theory, researchers removed “nurse” bees inside the hive, forcing foragers to change roles to make up for the loss of nurse bees. Consequently, the chemical profiles had changed in the bees that switched duties to appropriately fit the profiles of a nurse bee.
Scientists believe that the epigenetic changes in humans can alter the way we act and influence behavior.