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7 examples of animal democracy

Nov. 4, 2012, 5:28 p.m.
Honeybees

Photo: ZUMA Press

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Honeybees

While honeybees and other highly social insects live for their queen, they don't live in monarchies. Queen bees are essentially just egg-laying machines, leaving the grunt work of running the hive to workers and drones. These lesser bees may not consciously deliberate like human voters, but their collective will is nonetheless what drives the hive's success.

When scout bees perform a waggle dance to pitch future nesting sites, dozens may compete in trying to sway the colony's decision. It's like "a popularity contest with a dance party," according to biologist Thomas Seeley of Cornell University, who reported in 2011 that bees also use another tactic to build consensus: They headbutt any scouts that stubbornly keep dancing for a less popular site. It's sort of like the insect world's version of an Iowa caucus.