Eusociality in animals is a perplexing phenomenon in the study of biology. These "good" societies, characterized by the presence of groups of reproductive and nonreproductive individuals who each fulfil certain needs of their social group, are found most commonly in insects-- specifically, the order Hymenoptera -- but are also found in crustaceans, and even mammals, such as the naked mole rat.
Members of the order Hymenoptera. From Alexander Wild.
The fundamental premise of a hive superorganism is that each member can often be more usefully interpreted as an organ or cell in a larger whole rather than an individual animal unto itself. In isolation no individual honeybee-worker, drone, or queen-could survive for long. Only together, through myriad computation exercises carried out through genetic, hormonal, and neural means can these almost-organisms form an evolutionarily viable structure.
Honey bee castes. Image from the Digital Museum of Natural History
To understand the behavior of a hive superorganism, one must first understand the behavior and pressures on each individual. To that end, this website discusses differences in development, physiology, and behavior between honey bee castes. We discuss the unique lives of queen bees, worker bees, and drones, and ultimately tie the three castes together with a discussion of overall hive dynamics, in which we discuss the evolution and adaptive value of eusociality in Apis Mellifera.