True altruism is rare behavior in animals, but a new study by Penn State researchers has found that honey bees display this trait.
True altruism is rare behavior in animals, but a new study by Penn State researchers has found that honey bees display this trait. Additionally, they found that an evolutionary battle of genetics may determine the parent they inherit it from.
For the study, published in the journal Molecular Ecology, the researchers examined the genetics behind “retinue” behavior in worker honey bees, who are always female. After the worker bees are exposed to the queen bee’s pheromone, they deactivate their own ovaries, help spread the pheromone to the other worker bees, and tend to the queen and the eggs she produces.
This behavior is considered altruistic because it ultimately benefits the ability of the queen to produce offspring, while the worker bee remains sterile. For honey bees, the queen is typically the mother of all, or nearly all, the bees in the hive.
Read more at: Penn State University
Honey bee workers display altruism by spreading the pheromones of the queen bee and suppressing their own reproduction. (Photo Credit: Sean Bresnahan)