Honey bees and other social insects perform many altruistic (self-sacrificing or selfless) behaviors such as sharing their food and giving up their lives to defend their nest, group mates, and queen. Another cool altruistic behavior that ants and bees perform is self-removal behavior. This refers to when an individual can tell that they are infected with an illness or are in some other way health-compromised and decide to then leave the nest for good so that they do not put others at risk of potentially contracting their illness. This altruistic self-removal consists of a suite of changes where unhealthy individuals leave the nest quickly, are hesitant to exchange food with others (a potential source of disease transmission), and will quickly leave the nest again if experimentally reintroduced to the colony. The “self” part of the term is pretty important too as this ejection does not occur due to aggressive interactions with other nest mates. Instead, these insects pack their bags and leave of their own accord, never to return again.
Sketch contributed by Lea Pollack
Fact contributed by Adrian Perez
Source: Rueppell, O., Hayworth, M.K. and Ross, N.P., 2010. Altruistic self‐removal of health‐compromised honey bee workers from their hive. Journal of evolutionary biology, 23(7), pp.1538-1546.