Scientists used to think that it was Royal Jelly that set the queen apart. Royal Jelly is a special substance secreted from the glands in the heads of worker bees, also known as “bee milk,” that is made up of water, proteins, and sugars. This jelly gets fed to babies including the queen.
Recent research suggests that it’s more about what other bees are fed that queens aren’t fed that makes the difference. Queen bees feed on royal jelly alone while the rest of bee babies are fed pollen and honey instead. Scientists used to think it was the lack of royal jelly that castrated the other bees but they now think that it’s the pollen and honey that does the trick.
It has to do with the activation of certain genes. They have narrowed it down to phenolic acids, which royal jelly lacks, that provide the catalyst for changing a bee into a worker.
Why has it taken so long to find this out? According to Dr. May Berenbaum, a professor at the University of Illinois, it’s been hard to study bees because so much of this happens in the dark of their hive.
To learn more about the process of becoming a queen bee visit: http://www.wired.com/2015/09/royal-jelly-isnt-makes-queen-bee-queen-bee/