Bee Study Lifts Lid on Hive Habits
Experiments on the division of labor in honeybee hives have revealed why some bees do the waggle dance while others nurse their queens. According to a report in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the job a worker bee does corresponds to distinct patterns of chemicals that latch on to and regulate certain genes in their brains.
Honeybees are born into their place in society. While some worker bees remain at home, others take flight in search of nectar, pollen and other hive essentials. The entire honeybee workforce are genetically identical sisters. But analysis of the worker bees’ DNA revealed that foragers had one pattern of chemical tags on their genes, while those that stayed home had another. When bees swapped one job for the other, their genetic tags changed accordingly. Scientists call these patterns epigenetic states, because they work on top of the normal genetic code.