Fit for a queen bee

queen bee surrounded by other beesWhat makes a queen bee? How does a queen bee achieve her regal status that elevates her from her sterile worker sisters? This has been a long-standing question for scientists studying honey bees, including honey bee expert and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Robert Page. To get at the heart of the question, scientists have now used for the first time the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to selectively shut off a gene necessary for general female development. By doing so, they have shown that a dramatic difference in gonad size between honey bee queens and their female workers in response to their distinct diets requires the switching on of a specific genetic program, according to a new study published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Page, who is also an Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Regents' Professor, and colleagues Annika Roth and Martin Beye of Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany. The finding is likely to allow more detailed analysis of the interplay of genes and nutrition that drives the selection of queens from worker bees.