Deadly Children: Insects Who Eat Their Mothers
Imagine giving birth only to have your darling child stab you to death in your sleep. It sounds like something from The Omen, right? Wrong, this is the reality of many social insects such as bees, wasps, and ants. Why do they do this? That is exactly what entomologist Kevin J. Loope from the University of California Riverside decided to find out. What he found is that the queen insect’s court is filled with about just as much intrigue and backstabbing as Henry VIII’s.
We usually think of worker insects as simply going about their daily tasks, almost like drones. But, Loope discovered that they are actually much more calculating, helping or harming the queen based on what suits their own survival. After extensive research, Loope found that worker insects tend to kill their mother when their hive is filled with full siblings, and let her live when there are more half siblings in the mix. The worker insects are essentially protecting their own genetic makeup by making sure the queen either continues producing more full siblings or does not have a chance to produce any more half siblings. This way their sister workers, who are full siblings, can continue to lay eggs after the queen is exterminated. This also protects those worker eggs, as the queen generally controls worker reproduction by eating their eggs, attacking the workers who are reproducing, and then laying her own eggs.
Did you ever imagine that the lives of these social insects would seem so similar to some of our own monarchies? What are your thoughts on these mutinous insects?