Are bee colonies incestuous?

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Offline thedoc

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Are bee colonies incestuous?
« on: 23/11/2011 13:14:38 »
Dear Naked People

A colony of bees would seem to have the same DNA as the rest of their colony.

Although there is possibly some competition between worker bees to mate with a new queen, surely they share the same DNA as her and the rest of the colony?

Does this not weaken the colony in the long run or does this ensure that the colony is able to operate as one rather than a collection of individuals? After all, if humans were to do this we would soon start to suffer from inherited diseases such as haemophilia, a disease  suffered by European royalty; but this didn't seem to stop them seeking their own best interests!

Asked by Chris Spencer

                                        Visit the webpage for the podcast in which this question is answered.

[chapter podcast=3746 track=11.11.20/Naked_Scientists_Show_11.11.20_9340.mp3]  ...or Listen to the Answer[/chapter] or [download as MP3]

« Last Edit: 23/11/2011 13:14:38 by _system »


Offline Don_1

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Are bee colonies incestuous?
« Reply #1 on: 21/11/2011 16:19:12 »
The Queen Bee will mate before she establishes a hive. Usually done on the wing, she may mate with more than one male. The male will die shortly after mating because it will leave its endophallus (genitalia) in the female. The female will then have all the sperm she requires for her lifetime. A few months for some, a year for others bees and up to 5 years for a Honey Bee.

In the case of the Honey Bee (and other colony bees), when laying her eggs, the Queen has control over the sex of the new bee. If she lays an unfertilised egg, the result will be a male, a fertilised egg will be a female. Thus the males will inherit genes only from the Queen, while the females will inherit a mix of the Queen's and the male's genes. To further against interbreeding, with the approach of winter, the females will force any male, with the capability of breeding (Drones), out of the hive.

Most of the bees in a hive will be workers (females). The ovipositor in these workers is modified into the sting, so they cannot reproduce.
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