Prolog: The Bee Colony — a Mammal in Many Bodies



Characteristics leading to the dominance of mammals can be found in a similar constellation in the bee colony superorganism.

According to all the usual criteria, honeybees are insects—of that, there is no doubt. And this has been so since their appearance in their present form, about 30 million years ago. Nevertheless, in the 19th century they were accorded the “status” of vertebrates, following a remarkable comparison made by the apiarist and cabinet maker Johannes Mehring (1815–1878). According to Mehring, a bee colony is a single “being” equivalent to a vertebrate animal. The worker bees represent the body organs necessary for maintenance and digestion, while the queen and the drones represent the female and male genital organs.


Royal Jelly Honeybee Coloni Usual Criterion Honeybee Colony Brood Comb 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

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