A single honeybee has cloned itself hundreds of millions of times

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honeybee

A Cape honeybee foraging in red aloe flowers in southern Africa

Cathy Withers-Clarke/Alamy

The workers of a South African subspecies of honeybee can clone themselves, with one individual having done so many millions of times over the past 30 years. Some of the clones can even develop into queens that can take over the hive.

Asexual reproduction – parthenogenesis – isn’t uncommon in the insect world, but having offspring that are genetically identical to the parent is. That’s because, during the reproductive process, genetic material gets mixed up in a process called recombination. As a result, even if there is only one parent its offspring end up with a slightly different genetic makeup.

However, the female workers of the Cape honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis), native…

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