Azra Raza in The MDS Beacon:
Honeybees have a fantastic story, one that may provide insight into myelodysplastic syndromes, aging, and a number of other conditions.
The drones and worker bees exist to work. Their various jobs include nursing the ever-hatching brood, visiting flowers to bring back nectar, constructing wax combs, serving as cleaners and guards for the hive, and literally living to serve the queen.
The queen bee, on the other hand, looks different and is larger than the other bees. She is fed and groomed by a hoard of attendants, does not work a day in her life, and her only job is to lay eggs that can amount to as many as 2,000 on a good summer day. She produces a pheromone called “queen substance” that informs the colony that a viable queen is present.
The greatest difference between the queen and her subjects, however, is that the workers have a life span of two to four weeks while the queen can live up to eight years.
The real kicker is that drones and the queen bee share the exact same set of genes. What accounts for the dramatic physical differences is therefore not the genes but their relative expression (i.e., how much of each gene’s corresponding protein the body makes).
In the case of bees, it seems that the diet they are fed as larvae and beyond controls which genes are turned on to be translated into protein. Bees’ rich and nutritious diet, called royal jelly, is produced in the mouth glands of nursing bees and fed to all hatching larvae; however, the workers are soon weaned off the royal jelly and given nectar and pollen, while the queen bee is bathed in the royal jelly into adulthood.
What is the magic substance in royal jelly?