Shahla Farzan: This is Scientific American’s 60 Second Science. I am Shahla Farzan.
Each honey bee colony has its own scent, like a fingerprint. And bees use this scent to recognize their nestmates – and basically say: ‘you smell like me so I’ll let you into the colony. ‘
But here’s the secret. When you move a little bee to a new hive, not only will the colony accept it, but that bee will eventually smell like its adopted nestmates … even though they are not genetically related.
Cassondra Vernier: “That species got us thinking, maybe it’s not the genetics of the bee, but the genetics of the living microbes within the bee.”
Shahla Farzan: Cassondra Vernier is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois. She knew that gut microbes can affect the smell and communication of other animals such as hyenas.
Therefore, she and her co-authors developed a series of experiments to test for the presence of microbes Likewise Change the scents covering the outside of honeybees known as cuticular hydrocarbons.
In one experiment, they fed newly hatched sister bees with various intestinal microbes. The bees developed different microbiomes – and they also produced different cuticular hydrocarbon scents. On the other hand:
Cassondra Vernier: “When they were treated with different vaccines, they recognized themselves as non-nestmates. And they attacked each other, usually in the form of biting each other. “
Shahla Farzan: In other words, bees from the same colony would not recognize each other if they had different gut microbes.
Washington University biology professor and co-author Yehuda Ben-Shahar says the microbes physiologically alter the bees and control their complicated social behavior. But he adds that this relationship is mutually beneficial to the bacteria and the bees.
Yehuda Ben-Shahar: “The bees must have some of these bacteria, so you have a system where that relationship is for the biology of both the bacteria and the host and comes to a point where it is mandatory. So one cannot exist without the other. “
Shahla Farzan: According to Ben-Sharar, it is absolutely important to be able to tell nestmates from intruders.
Without this ability, bees would be susceptible to nest parasites – and to other bees that want to steal their most precious asset: honey. And so entrance has to be paid for – not in dollars, but in fragrances.
For Scientific American 60 Second Science, I’m Shahla Farzan.