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PB & Royal J

February 9, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

How do you make a queen a queen? England seems to think it’s some crazy “crown” business. Maybe it's Bohemian Rhapsody.  I like the way the honey bee does it. With goo.

Bee colonies have an interesting structure. The queen is the only fertile female, and is diploid, meaning she has two copies of the genome. The other members of the colony are a thousands of females (FYI, they’re the workers of the hive) generated from the regular sexual reproduction (i.e. sperm meets egg, craziness ensues and a worker bee is produced), however these females have non-functional sex organs.  The left-over unfertilized eggs become the males (these are called "drones") whose main purpose is to provide sperm to the queen.

 

queen bee, science in seconds

                                     This queen definitely is the champion, my friends.


Sometimes the queen dies or gets tired. After squirting out so many bee eggs to maintain a colony, who wouldn’t? In this case the hive needs to make a new queen or else no new generations can be produced. To make a new queen, the worker bees make a goopy substance called “royal jelly” that can be placed in the honeycombs of some larvae. This jelly causes the development of ovaries and allows the generation of a newly fertile queen.

 

science in seconds, royal jelly
                                                  Some royal jelly for your next PB&J?


Interestingly, royal jelly isn’t just for royal generation. Royal jelly has medical implications as well, and has been found to aid in the healing process of foot ulcers in diabetic patients. Soon enough, we might all be wearing crowns.

So if it’s good enough for diabetics, should we slather up the new princess sometime soon? I mean, how else is she going to become a bona fide queen, through legal channels? Lame...let’s slime her.

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