What happens if a bee gets lost?

08 September 2014
Presented by Graihagh Jackson.

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If you accidentally relocate a bee in your car, what happens? Would it join another colony or would that be it for the lost bee? For the answer to this insterest-sting question, we spoke to Henry Ferguson-Gow from the Zoological Society of London.

In this episode

The buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) visiting Globe thistle. By Penny Firth.

00:00 - If I move an insect in my car will it die?

If you accidentally relocate a social insect, like an ant or a bee, in your car will they join another colony or will they be outcastes?

If I move an insect in my car will it die?

Henry Ferguson-Gow - Generally, when a lost worker tries to enter a foreign colony it will be treated with aggression, at best rejected from the colony, and at worst outright killed.

This is because the invading ant would most likely be unrelated to the workers and queen of the new colony. Being closely related is the glue that holds a colony together, and an unrelated individual would have no evolutionary interest in working to raise the offspring of their adopted queen. Instead, they would exploit the resources of the colony, or worse, start laying their own eggs. Although sometimes nestmate recognition systems fail (for example, rogue buff-tailed bumblebees have been documented drifting between unrelated nests in the wild), in general an unrelated interloper is not tolerated.

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