Research performed by scientists at the University of Sydney has been released in the newest edition of Current Biology. The study presents its revolutionary findings – the existence of a single gene that enables asexual reproduction for the South African Cape honey bees, a phenomenon which scientists have been trying to get their heads around for decades.
The gene responsible for the phenomenon is GB45239, located on the eleventh chromosome of the bee. It enabled the “virgin” bees to birth baby female bees without needing to procreate with a male in a process named “thelytokous parthenogenesis.” Apart from its other application, this discovery could destroy the famed American “birds and the bees” jokes.
“Virgin” Honey Bees Only Give Birth To Females
According to the study, male bees do not have any uses besides procreation, so GB45239 enables worker bees to give birth to only female bees, which actually do all the work in a hive. According to one of the authors of the paper, Professor Benjamin Oldroyd, weeding out those useless male bees does lead to a few problems.
According to Professor Benjamin Oldroyd, who co-authored the study, eliminating the male bees from the procreation process could lead to some issues down the road. Professor Oldroyd has declared in the announcement of the study that Cape honey bee colonies are driven towards confrontation because any worker bee can give birth to the next queen of the hive – with the same genetic material – instead of being a society based on cooperation.
This is because, upon the death of a hive’s queen, all of the workers battle in an attempt to be the mother of the next queen of the hive. However, the asexual trait of the Cape honey bees, the only one that’s known so far to have this ability, is not what draws attention as being out of the ordinary. What is unusual is sex. It is a peculiar form of reproduction, yet it is the most commonly found way to produce offspring for both plants and animals.