Junior, Howard University
Advisor: Nina H. Fefferman
This summer I will be looking at the reproductive
contribution of workers and drones in a bee colony, and finding an optimal
solution to drone rearing. For those of you who are not familiar with bee reproduction, a queen bee lays two kinds of eggs in a
colony, one is the haploid egg, (male), which grows to become a drone, and the
other is the diploid egg (female) which grows to become either a worker or a
queen bee. Worker bees have positive energy contributions to a bee colony
because they can produce food, however, the drone (the male), has a negative
contribution to the colony because it produces no food, and only consumes food.
Even the haploid egg (male egg) is a negative contribution to the bee colony,
as the workers must provide the eggs with food, only to rear another drone who
will continue to consume food and energy. However, the female egg, though it
will become a worker when it matures and become a positive contribution, is
also a negative contribution to the colony since it also requires feeding.
Worker bees, however, do not settle for this continued cycle of negative contribution for too long. After a certain point on time, worker bees force a number of x-day old drones out of the colony. At this point, all support for the expelled drones ceases. However, there are still a number of drones that do not get expelled from the colony immediately. Ultimately, their time does come, if not from being expelled, then from growing old, or the luckiest outcome of all...mating! The downside to mating for the drone is that it immediately dies after is mates with the queen.
A worker bee is essentially sterile. They can lay eggs, but only the eggs of drones. They cannot lay any diploid eggs in order to produce a worker or a queen bee. Only the queen bee can do this.
At a certain point in the summer, swarming occurs within the colony. So what is swarming? Swarming is the act of the old queen bee leaving the nest with approximately 75% of the worker bees (and a few drones) to look for a new nest. Because the colony can support more eggs than they are able to produce, they establish a new colony. A virgin queen bee emerges, and 25% of the worker bees stay with this new bee and help establish the colony again.