What a fascinating study of honeybees. I don’t think the article from The Register gets it right however. If a hive is queenless, workers will become “laying” workers in order to create new queens for the colony.
Cape worker honeybees have the ability to invade other swarms secretly, also known as social parasitism. The sneaky bees fly into foreign colonies and slowly build an all-female army by laying eggs discreetly. When they hatch, the offspring uses up all the hive’s resources so that the old population slowly dwindles away.
“If they have the opportunity to be social parasites, they will,” Webster warned.
According to the paper, the “parasitic egg-laying Cape bee worker” bees masquerade as queens, producing queen pheromones that “allow them to assert reproductive dominance over other workers”. They also “have a significantly increased lifespan of three to five months compared to six weeks in non-parasitic workers”.
Read more at The Register: Study of asexually reproducing honeybee ponders: But why the mass murder?
Read more at PLOS Genetics: Identification of Multiple Loci Associated with Social Parasitism in Honeybees