The hierarchical structure that exists within bee colonies has always been a source of fascination for researchers. The biggest mystery? With tens of thousands of identical members in each colony, how do just a handful get selected to be Queen bee(s), while the rest get relegated to being workers?
For many years now, scientists believed that it was a few random larvae that got picked and fed with royal jelly - A special protein-rich secretion that emanates from the glands off the heads of worker bees. This helped the larvae to not only become larger than the rest of the bees, but also, ensured a two-year lifespan, or about four times longer those of worker bees.
However, a recent study done by a team of scientists from China and Ethiopia has discovered that the 'queen larvae' is different from the larvae of 'worker bees' - Which means that the queen bee is not just a lucky larvae who was fed nutritious food, but one that had always been destined for royalty.
Led by China's Jianke Li, the study focused on the activity of the proteins inside the mitochondrion - the power producer that provides each cell with the energy it needs. What they discovered was that the activity levels in the pre-queen larvae was different from the worker bee larvae.
The proteins in the royal larvae were much more active, which means that Queen bees are born with the natural metabolism to consume and digest the royal jelly, which in turn, helps them grow bigger and live longer. We wonder how the bees can figure out which of the hundreds of larvae are royalty - Maybe that's what the scientists will research next!
Resources: Sciencedaily.com, Dailymail.co.uk