Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Bees and shift work—particularly the night shift

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Very interesting post, which begins:

Most people are aware that social insects, like honeybees, have three "sexes": queens, drones and workers.

Drones are males. Their only job is to fly out and mate with the queen after which they drop dead.

Female larvae fed ‘royal jelly’ emerge as queens. After mating, the young queen takes a bunch of workers with her and sets up a new colony. She lives much longer than other bees and spends her life laying gazillions of eggs continuously around the clock, while being fed by workers.

Female larvae not fed the ‘royal jelly’ emerge as workers.

Workers perform a variety of jobs in the hive. Some are hive-cleaners, some are ‘nurses’ (they feed the larvae), some are queen’s chaperones (they feed the queen), some are guards (they defend the hive and attack potential enemies) and some are foragers (they collect nectar and pollen from flowers and bring it back to the hive).

What most people are not aware of, though, is that there is a regular progression of ‘jobs’ that each worker bee goes through. The workers rotate through the jobs in an orderly fashion. They all start out doing generalized jobs, e.g., cleaning the hive. Then they move up to doing a more specialized job, for instance being a nurse or taking care of the queen. Later, they become guards, and in the end, when they are older, they become foragers – the terminal phase.

This pattern of behavioral development is called "age polyethism" (poly = many, ethism = expression of behavior), or sometimes "temporal polyethism" (image from BeeSpotter): …

Continue reading to find out about shift work.

Written by Leisureguy

10 May 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

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