Honeybee Class Warfare
It’s Labor Day, but I just can’t bear to reiterate the awful facts about economic inequality in the United States. I could tell you about the insights from the latest article from the Journal of Economic Inequality, but I would have to pay $44.95 for access to that article, and I just don’t have that kind of extra money.
Rather than talking about people who work in inhumane conditions, it will be far easier for me to talk about workers who are literally non-human. Let’s talk about worker bees.
It’s commonly said that in a hive of honeybees, the queen lays all the eggs. I found out, while reading a recent article from The American Naturalist, that worker honeybees actually do lay eggs.
What happens to the eggs of worker bees and queen bees is what makes honeybee hive society structured in the way that it is. Worker bees kill each others’ eggs 98 percent of the time. This egg-killing is called “policing” by entomologists. Only between 4 and 10 percent of eggs laid by the queen are killed by workers in the colony.
The article that provides these statistics, Killing and Replacing Queen-Laid Eggs: Low Cost of Worker Policing in the Honeybee by
Martin H. Kärcher and Francis L. W. Ratnieks, is available at Jstor, where, if you sign up for a free account, you can read three academic articles at any given time, at no cost.