Today we conducted a 12hr procedure to try and help answer one of Darwin's greatest dilemmas.
Why does woker sterility exist in social insects, when they would be more related to their own offspring than the queens.
This leads on from the work regarding worker policing and anarchistic bees which we have been studying for over 10 years now.
Anarchistic eggs appear to be policed less than wild type eggs. One of the reasons for this may be extremely subtle chemicals on the eggs that may make them appear to be layed by a queen. Normally worker laid eggs in a queen right colony are policed and eaten by other workers. In an anarchist hive they are not. Laying goes on right beside the queen and the eggs are reared into viable drones and not policed.
* The objective today was to get five eggs from 4 anarchistic colonies and 4 wild type colonies. Sounds easy? Here's the catch.
*The eggs must be layed by the queen on new comb. The queen must lay the eggs without worker bees on the comb she lays them in.
*The day before I made up wooden cages 10cm by 10cm with a bee exclusion mesh on them.
*To get the queens feeling non-stressed this mesh allowed the bees heads into the cage to feed and groom her (but their thorax could not fit through.
*Queens were confined in cages to the combs in all of the eight colonies.
*Then the waiting game, will they be comfortable enough to lay?
*10 Hours later the combs were remove queens released and confined comb sections were inspected. 7 of the combs contained grater than 5 eggs but less than 10. 1 queen did not lay. Made it by the skin of my teeth.
*The eggs were not layed normally. Often they were on top of the comb and sometimes in clumps of 3 eggs etc. Obviously they were not comfortable with this bee free situation.
*The eggs were removed with probes and placed into special glass vials. The eggs were then washed in 30 microlitres of hexane each (to remove intefering substances). This was then allowed to evaporate before tubes were sealed.
*The next day eggs are of in the post to Sheffield UK for analysis.
*Will it yeild a result? Maybe, Maybe not, but this is a typical day that may help unlock a key and help us understand more the mysterious bee.
For more information on anarchist bees and other projects please look at the following links.http://www.bio.usyd.edu.au/Social_InsectsLab/BensPDFs/OldroydProc.R.Soc1999.pdfhttp://www.bio.usyd.edu.au/Social_InsectsLab/Social_InsectsLab.htmhttp://www.bio.usyd.edu.au/Social_InsectsLab/BensPDFs/martin_et_al.pdf