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DO CAPE HONEYBEE WORKERS “ENSLAVE” AFRICAN HONEYBEES?

Slave making is a phenomenon seen in ants where individuals from one ant colony steal brood from another and then incorporate the emerging brood into the host colony’s workforce. This concept of ‘enslavement” by another species has however never been shown in honeybees. Apis millifera scutellata (African honeybee) colonies have been invaded by a population of Cape honeybee workers. These workers take over the reproductive role in the colony and make use of the resident A.m. scutellata workforce to maintain colony functioning. Dr Theresa Wossler (C•I•B core team member) and her lab have used experimental manipulations together with the investigation of task partitioning and the frequency of doing these tasks to evaluate whether these A.m scutellata workers are being used as “slaves” by Cape honeybee workers. The data are currently being analysed. The phenomenon of “enslavement” has never before been demonstrated in honeybees. Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment.

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Above: A. Dr Theresa Wossler adds bees to the observation hive for brood care observations. B. The observation hive with brood and food frames. C. The number of bees and frequency of each bee leaving the observation hive to forage was recorded.