If you thought human men and women were complicated, buckle up for this startling discovery: bees can actually be part male and part female. In addition to that, they can have up to four parents! That’s gonna make for some awkwardness during the holidays.
Researchers recently found that when it comes to honeybees’ conception, there isn’t a simple mother and father situation, as honeybees with male and female tissue can actually be born through two fathers, without a mother involved at all. What’s even weirder is that the motherless bee, which was created through the fusion of sperm cells, actually ended up being female herself.
Honeybees are haplodiploids, which means that females come from fertilized diploid eggs, while unfertilized haploid eggs lead to male births. However, scientists now understand that honeybees can be created as male or female, or they can be gynandromorphs, which means they both have male and female tissue throughout their bodies.
During a new study, 11 gynandromorph honeybees from a single colony were revealed to have mostly normal sex organs, as five of the female bees had normal ovaries and three of the other female bees had ovaries that resembled the queen’s ovaries. Then, there were the males. While one of the males had regular sex organs as expected, two had just partial sex organs, surprising researchers.
The scientists were really floored when they discovered that a number of the gynandromorph bees actually had more than one father. The cause of this is actually a little bit scandalous as far as humans are concerned: it seems that multiple males mated with the queen and it resulted in the egg being fertilized by more than one sperm.
This is not something that can be resolved in a half hour by a blood test on The Maury Povich Show, people.