Turns out that honey bees might not have the ideal socialist society after all. Researchers at Otago University in New Zealand have discovered that worker bees behave like drones because of a powerful, brainwashing pheromone released by the queen. The queen bee prevents aggressive behavior in the workers by releasing homovanillyl alcohol or HVA. As described by the New Zealand Herald, the HVA, released from the queen’s mandibles, “blocks aversive learning, the acquisition of negative memories which would normally trigger an aggressive ‘sting reflex’ in the bees.” Bees who don’t learn to sting inside the nest, are less likely to cause trouble for the hive. Order is thus maintained, and the queen bee remains protected and in charge.
Hi bee workers! My name’s Little Cletus and I’m here to tell you a few things about bee labor laws, ok? They’re silly and outdated. Why back in the 30s, bees as young as five could work as they pleased; from textile factories to iron smelts. Yippee! Hurray!
To test this theory, the researchers conditioned a group of worker bees to associate a certain odor with an electric shock. Eventually, just subjecting the bees to the odor was enough for them to take out their stingers in anger. When exposed to the odor and the queen’s pheromone HVA, however, the bees’ stingers never extended.
In a related story, on Saturday Kim Jong Il officially declared Homovanillyl vodka the official drink of North Korea.