Why aren't honeybees too inbred?
Honeybees live in colonies that consist of one Queen, the only fertile female, and a bunch of very closely related worker bees. But with only one mom per colony, why don't honeybee colonies suffer from inbreeding?
According to science, there are two reasons.
One is through polyandry. The Queen bee "mates with a score of drones and uses their sperm to fertilize the eggs randomly so that workers often have different fathers," Science Daily explains. "The second is through extremely high rates of recombination. Recombination, or crossing-over, occurs when sperm and egg cells are formed and segments of each chromosome pair are interchanged. This variance plays a crucial role in the maintenance of genetic variation."
The researchers have found that recombination occurs in honeybees at a higher rate than any other measured animal and twenty times higher than in humans.
The colony needs to be genetically diverse so that the workforce is able to perform a diverse set of tasks. The colony can't be too susceptible to disease. And recombination promotes favorable gene variants. But it can also promote harmful mutations. Over long periods of time, extreme recombination rates can deteriorate the gene pool. The honeybee just can't catch a break.