They say love is blind, but bees take that literally.
For a queen honeybee, the consequences of being inseminated during sex by a drone bee can be downright a-pollen, new research shows.
Bee sperm causes temporary blindness in honeybee queens, making it harder for them to fly off and mate with other males until the effect wears off.
“For social insects like honeybees, it is beneficial if their queens mate with many males,” said the study, published this month in the journal eLife. That’s because having lots of bee baby-daddies “can protect the hive against parasites.” So queens go on dayslong “mating flight” benders, during which they get impregnated by multiple bees and accumulate enough sperm for a lifetime.
The more males who inseminate the queen, though, the fewer kids the queen has from each partner. This poses a problem for the bee daddies, who want to have as many babies with the queen as possible. And so honeybee dudes kill their queen’s buzz — by blinding them with their semen.
Exposure to honeybee “seminal fluid” poisons queens, scientists found, causing a “significant decrease in visual perception,” thus locking the genders in “a sexual arms race.” Queens attempt to counteract the blinding by fleeing quickly after sex, but the honey-daddy agenda often works anyway, thereby reducing “queen promiscuity.”
Researchers tested the hypothesis by electronically tracking semen-exposed queens’ and saline-exposed queens’ responsiveness to light. Queens that had just had sex were “more likely to get lost and to not return to their hives” than the queens exposed only to saline.
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