As I’ve mentioned before, living in a large densely-packed social group, like a city or an ant colony, comes with some drawbacks – perhaps worst of which is the risk of catching a contagious diseases. Earlier this year I wrote about research showing that raider ants treat injured workers’ wounds, helping them to heal. Now, a new study shows that the queen can pass on resistance to diseases she’s encountered, arming her workers against pathogens.
Male honeybees produce antimicrobial chemicals in their semen to protect new queens from a fungal disease.
Sex always comes with the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, so male honeybees have evolved to produce antimicrobial chemicals in their semen. The fungus Nosema apis is a specialised pathogen of honeybees, which can be transmitted to new queens when they mate, but new research shows that male honeybees’ semen has powerful antifungal activity, disrupting the lifecycle of the Nosema spores and reducing their viability.