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Earth Science

Researchers Find That Queen Bees Vaccinate Their Offspring 26

The Washington Post reports that a team of researchers has discovered a previously unrecognized behavior in bees which gives the insects an extra layer of protection against certain diseases. Though the analogy to human-style vaccination is not perfect, it's close enough to make sense. Queen bees, the group found, break down some disease-causing pathogens found in the pollen and nectar brought to them by worker bees, but do not simply destroy them. Instead, after they are partly broken down, Bits of the pathogens are then transferred to the queen's "fat body," an organ similar to a liver, where they are packaged onto a protein called vitellogenin and delivered to eggs through the queen's blood stream. The result: newly hatched bee larvae that are already immune to the nasty germs that could have plagued the colony. The article notes that "the discovery could extend to other species throughout the animal kingdom," because all egg-laying animals have the same protein.
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Researchers Find That Queen Bees Vaccinate Their Offspring

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After all is said and done, a hell of a lot more is said than done.