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How it works: honeybee society

By

Emma Greguska

Arizona State University biologist Gro Amdam’s research on honeybees was the focus of a recent Popular Science article.

For decades, scientists have known that bees take on new jobs as they age, but Amdam and her team of researchers recently discovered that chemical tags attached to the bees’ DNA play an important role in determining their career paths. According to Amdam, both the chemical tags and the behavior they induce appear to be reversible, so that foraging bees, for instance, could become nurses if needed.

These findings are significant for humans because we also carry epigenetic tags that may affect behavior. If these chemical cues can be changed in bees, scientists may find new treatments for people with psychological trauma, mood disorders, and even learning disabilities.