Zoology student's research in the news
A paper published by Zoology Ph.D. student Katie Wharton has been featured in a recent news article in ScienceNOW, published by Science magazine. Katie's research, published in the November/December issue of Behavioral Ecology, focused on the ability of queen honey bees to influence the proportion of males the colony produces. It had long been known that a queen determine the sex of each offspring by whether she fertilizes an egg prior to laying it. As in other hymenopteran insects (bees, wasps, ants), unfertilized eggs develop into males (called drones in honey bee colonies) while fertilized eggs develop into females (queens or sterile workers). In spite of queens having this control, however, workers were assumed to influence the overall proportion of males produced by the colony. This is because they build the comb where the eggs are laid, and can adjust the proportion of the larger drone cells relative to worker cells. Katie's research shows that queens do not simply react to the cells as they encounter them, laying whatever type of egg is called for. Instead, if deprived of an opportunity to lay drone eggs, they preferentially seek out opportunities to lay drone eggs, as if they are monitoring their recent history of egg-laying. Katie's paper was coauthored by Fred Dyer and Tom Getty in Zoology, and Zachary Huang in Entomology. The ScienceNOW news story can be found here.