Why queen bee gets blind by the male honey bee?
You must have heard that the queen bee gets blind by the male honey bee. But why does it happen?
We can start our discussion about the reason why the queen bee gets blind by the male honey bee, with the fact that the queen bee stores all the sperms that are needed for making a lifetime’s worth of babies in a few days. This virgin queen goes out of the beehive to mate with 90 male honey bees. After that, she returns to the beehive while she has stored up to 100 million sperm cells in her oviducts. Later, she would reduce this number to five or six million in her spermathecal. During the mating process, drone bees die since their abdomens get ripped open. The drone bees have served their only purpose in their lives.
Honey bees are unique
Most of the social insects have the same routine, but honey bees are special due to the fact that queen bees can have multiple mating flights. This is because she wants to increase genetic diversity. The queen bee is the mother of all the workers in her beehive until another queen, which is her daughter, takes her place. By selecting different sperms from different sources, the queen bee can have more genes in her beehive. As a result, the chance of surviving from diseases can increase.
Drone bees don’t want the queen bee to mate with other drone bees and add their sperm to the collection. This is because they want their own sperms to get passed along. As a result, the queen gets blind by the toxin in the drone bee’s sperm to be kept hive-bound.
Investigations on the toxin in drone bee’s sperm
There are some toxic materials among 300 proteins in bee seminal fluid that makes the queen’s vision go blurry. A professor of entomology at UC Riverside, Boris Baer, has been investigating the toxin in drone bee’s sperm for the last decade.
Recently, Boris Baer and his team have found a protein that attacks sperm from other males which is something common. But this new toxin in drone bee’s sperm is something new in the sexual arms race. It seems that this protein changes the expression of genes that are responsible for vision inside the queen bees’ brains. But we do not know the exact mechanism of this toxin yet. Vision is an important factor in the art of flying. The result is that queen bees cannot navigate easily anymore.
Many types of research were done by scientists to test this toxin. One group of queen bees was given bee semen and the other group was given a saline solution. After tracking the movements of the queen bees, it became clear that semen-addled queens got lost on their way back. Electrodes that were attached to the brains of queens show that their sensitivity to light had been compromised.
It’s not easy to blame a doomed drone
We cannot blame a drone for doing this to the queen bee because it is natural for them to want their lineage to carry on. The queen might seem heartless, but she only wants to look out for the colony. More mates bring more semen that she can store to keep them fresh for almost seven years.
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This will lead to around 1.7 million buzzing baby bees in the queen’s lifetime. Someday, they may have the opportunity to date the queen. They, too, want to have a lasting impression to become a king for a day. And this is why the queen bee gets blind by the male honey bee.