5 min read

Guy Catches Queen Bee On Film Telling Off One Of Her Subjects

“I felt very lucky to have witnessed something that few people are even aware of!”

When Ryan Brock started observing a colony of tree bumblebees as part of his Ph.D. program, he had no idea it would be more dramatic than reality TV.

Every day, he kept coming back for the same tense storyline — the ongoing feud between the queen and one of her disobedient workers.

Of the 76 worker bees in the colony, one, dubbed Worker Three, was clearly not content with who was wearing the crown.

Twitter/Ryan Brock

In fact, she started planning a coup. “I observed Worker Three attacking the queen while she was laying eggs,” Brock told The Dodo, “but, unfortunately, I didn’t have the camera handy.”

The next day, Brock caught Worker Three performing an even more transgressive act: laying her own eggs.

In a tree bumblebee hive, the queen emerges from hibernation in the spring and builds her colony from scratch. She finds a site for her nest, lays eggs and forages for pollen to feed her offspring.

Eventually, her eggs hatch into workers who take over foraging duties, Brock noted, allowing the queen to stay in the nest and devote her time to laying eggs — including the next generation of queen and mates.

Like any other monarchy, only the offspring of royals can inherit the throne. However, that doesn’t stop worker bees from laying eggs in hopes that their offspring could one day take control of the hive. In some cases, bumblebees will even execute the queen to help their kids get ahead.

Tree bumblebee colony in Norwich, UK
Facebook/Ryan Brock

But without the help of her sisters, Worker Three’s rebellion was quickly quashed. The queen caught her laying eggs and, according to Brock, gave her a “rather nasty telling off,” pouncing on the disobedient bee and wrestling her away from the eggs.

Queen bee wrestles worker bee
Twitter/Ryan Brock

Then, in a final act of control, the queen devoured the worker’s eggs.

Brock was stunned by what he witnessed. “It has long been suggested that aggressive interactions occur between the queen and her workers, but documenting it on camera was absolutely incredible,” Brock said. “I felt very lucky to have witnessed something that few people are even aware of!”

Brock decided to share the footage on Twitter, where his posts quickly amassed an audience far beyond the insect researchers he hoped to reach. Twitter users dubbed the conflict “Royal Bumble,” after the queen's wrestling-like moves.

Tree bumblebee on flower
Wikimedia Commons/Charles J Sharp

Since the rebellion, things have returned to normal in the colony, and peace rules once again.

“The queen and Worker Three are both still alive,” Brock said, “with the queen still chugging out plenty of eggs.”

“I haven’t seen Worker Three lay any eggs since being told off,” he added. “It seems she’s learned her lesson!”

But with three more months of observation left, Brock secretly hopes there is more drama ahead.