Cheating honeybee workers produce royal offspring
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The Cape bee (Apis mellifera capensis) is unique among honeybees in that workers can lay eggs that instead of developing into males develop into females via thelytokous parthenogenesis. We show that this ability allows workers to compete directly with the queen over the production of new queens. Genetic analyses using microsatellites revealed that 23 out of 39 new queens produced by seven colonies were offspring of workers and not the resident queen. Of these, eight were laid by resident workers, but the majority were offspring of parasitic workers from other colonies. The parasites were derived from several clonal lineages that entered the colonies and successfully targeted queen cells for parasitism. Hence, these parasitic workers had the potential to become genetically reincarnated as queens. Of the daughter queens laid by the resident queen, three were produced asexually, suggesting that queens can ‘choose’ to produce daughter queens clonally and thus have the potential for genetic immortality.
- RESEARCH: Wossler T