Taken from : http://txchnologist.com/post/92641625085/rfid-tags-show-elite-bees-are-made-not-born-by
Some bees in a hive have a right to complain. Researchers studying individual foraging behavior found that a minority group of elite colony members work much harder than others.
By attaching tiny radio frequency identification tags to the backs of bees, University of Illinois scientists realized that 20 percent of bees that leave the nest to forage account for 50 percent of the total food brought back.
“We found that some bees are working very, very hard – as we would have expected,” said lead researcher Gene Robinson, who heads the university’s Institute for Genomic Biology. “But then we found some other bees that were not working as hard as the others.”
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Robinson said previous research had uncovered elite foraging corps in other social insects.
"Workers in many eusocial insect species show a phenomenon sometimes referred to as ‘elitism’, in which a small proportion of individual workers engaged in a task perform a disproportionately large fraction of the work achieved by the colony as a whole," they write in an article published in the journal Animal Behavior. “This phenomenon has not been well studied for foraging behaviour in honeybees (Apis mellifera) because detailed observational studies of foraging activity have been limited by the difficulty of successfully tracking large numbers of individual workers.”
The thought had been that the difference between the great and the average was genetic. But tracking so many busy bees’ comings and goings from a number of colonies revealed that elites arose because of environmental and social factors. After elite bees were taken out of a colony, others increased their work to pick up the slack.
"Other bees upped their game considerably," Robinson said, "and started acting in the way we would have described for the elite bees."
The UI team report that a new crop of elite workers filled the void by increasing their activity level almost five-fold within 24 hours after removing the elite foragers. They hypothesize that there may be colony-level regulation of elite foraging behavior and that the majority that work less hard serve as a ready reserve when elites die.
"In beekeeping there’s something called the wisdom of the hive, when you can’t really explain what’s going on but the hive does something…that looks like intelligence," said Paul Tenczar, a citizen scientist who developed the bee tagging technique and conducted the research. "The wisdom of the hive has responded by making new elite bees as needed."