Show Details

Honeybee Royal Jelly

April 9, 2008

Royal jelly creates queen bees by changing gene expression.


A diet fit for a queen…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Most of the honeybees in a hive are female worker bees. But a few lucky larvae eat a special substance called royal jelly and develop into queen bees. Now, scientists at the Australian National University have found the key to how royal jelly triggers this transformation. They took bee larvae and suppressed an enzyme that controls gene expression. Molecular biologist Ryszard Malezska says doing so mimicked the action of feeding them royal jelly.

RYSZARD MALESZKA (Australian National University):
And each time when we silenced that gene, we were getting basically queens, like 80 percent emerging as queens, whereas controls treated in a different way were emerging as workers.

Maleszka says the finding might one day help researchers create super-queens to make honeybees more resistant to disease. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.