Normally bees don’t have subcastes - that’s more of an ant thing. But melliferians have the intelligence to notice hey, a little more royal jelly = bigger bee, and plan ahead and decide when or if that’s useful, creating a lot more variations due to the sliding scale of nutrition.

Seizy is basically a normally sized worker - with no further conscious decision making among the nurses, she’s about how big a worker will be.

Nine is the smallest a worker can get, a larva deprived of any more nutrition won’t survive metamorphosis. When times are hard, sometimes hives will decide it’s more important to keep the population up rather than drop the birth rate to match available resources. They prefer to avoid this if possible though, since it’s risky.

El and Threeda are about as big as workers can get before they start edging into being intercaste queen-like workers. Sinking so many resources into a single worker to get them this big is a serious investment. It can be worth it though as these bigger bees are stronger and more physically imposing, making them that much better at providing protection - or at least the illusion of it.

Not all hives have these extremes, since it’s the result of a conscious manipulation of natural processes - if it never occurs to a hive that this is possible, they may only have such individuals occasionally be pure accident. Some hives reinvent this wheel over and over, relearning how to do it when it becomes relevant, then forgetting when it’s no longer immediately necessary. This results in the social meaning of large and small workers being very tied to why they happened. A historical detail that dates generations of bees to a certain time and place.

And queens of course, are the natural extreme - receiving royal jelly throughout development and into adulthood.

zz9-plural-z-alpha  asked:

You mentioned a while back that Melliferian drones do a mating dance... if you're still accepting questions on these guys, can I ask what that mating dance might look like?

The dance has two parts - a required portion, which is instinctual and near completely universal to the species, and an optional free style portion.

In the required part the drone turns to face away from the queen and spreads his wings out, then he turns around slowly, wings still out spread while buzzing which causes his wings to vibrate and shimmer (drone’s wings are slightly iridescent which enhances this effect). Once he is facing the queen again, he puts his wings back down, then flicks them out again a couple times, moving them up and down purposefully a bit like semaphore flags while taking a few steps toward her.

In between repetitions of this ritual, he may add his own actions that he thinks might charm her. Other dances, compliments, singing - it’s up to him.

Workers watch this too and kind of want it over with as soon as possible so things can go back to normal (A drone arrival is a huge distraction and causes normal hive operations to stall a little) and some can get impatient with the wooing, so the unnecessary parts tend to be kept short so the workers don’t get too irritated.

This cycle continues until the queen gives some signal about whether she wants him around or not. (or if she takes too long to decide the workers might just be like guess she doesn’t like you OKAY BYE)

anonymous asked:

Is there any mellifarian folklore related to headless lady moths?

For those just tuning in, this is a headless lady moth, a species of moth that mimics the appearance of melliferian bees, but because melliferians have big brainy heads and moths do not, they conspicuously lack the head part of their disguise. Because of this, the bees call them headless ladies.

Folklore varies from hive to hive. Many hives tell stories about a worker bee daughter of the folkloric hero First Bee, who transgressed some sacred bit of bee morality by killing her sister or laying eggs, and was punished for this by being beheaded and cursed to fly forever without being able to find her way home.

Others tell stories of some other bee, a random worker from the past, beheaded in battle and so spiteful she went on fighting. And they say she’s still out there, thinking the war is still going (where’s a flashlight to put under your chin when you need one). Hives that have actually fought with other hives often spice this story up with authentic stories of bees continuing to fly or walk without their heads (melliferians have a huge neural ganglion in their thorax, it’s almost a second brain, so this sort of thing is possible, if only briefly)

Finally, some tell stories about the moths themselves - stories about how Moth (as a folklore character) was jealous of their colors, or cleverly wore their colors as a disguise when one day First Bee’s hive was so badly in need of protein for their children that they went hunting, only for this moth to slip away because of that split second confusion.

Or even that young foragers get called away by these moths and become lost forever, like children following fairies.

All very appropriate for halloween!

I’ve redesigned melliferian hands and feet again. This happened for two reasons.

For one, I realized their fingers had been out of proportion with the things they would be gripping on a daily basis. Human hands are a good size for the things we manipulate - if we needed to grip large branches, we’d have longer fingers to match that necessity. With how small these guys are, much of the world and the things they need to grab are much bigger than them. Even a twig would be like a baseball bat in their hands. Longer digits with more surface area for grippy setae makes the most sense.

As for the other reason - while fewer digits makes sense for the same reason (more grippy surface) the actual reason for the new number of digits is I’m changing the bee’s number system. I thoughtlessly made them use base 10, but I’ve decided to change this. They use base 12 now, and I gave them 12 fingers to count on (and like many of us, they are leaving their toes out of it)

And yes, this means all of their names are going to change - that particular undertaking I’ll save for another time, since I’m still working on the specifics of the sound of their counting system.

anonymous asked:

Some Melliferian questions: What is the maximum lifespan for each caste? Can they die after stinging someone? What do they think of actual bees and wasps? Do hives have regional dialects? What happens if a hive's Queen suddenly dies or is murdered by another hive? Are workers born instinctively knowing how to do their jobs or are they taught? How are the dead dealt with?

Workers live for about 35 to 40 years, queens for 90 to 120, drones for 5 to 20 (their lives are so variable and can be so short because finding a hive and living alone can be extremely hard on their bodies). Intercaste worker-like queens/queen-like workers can have lifespans anywhere in between workers and queens, depending on how long they got to eat royal jelly when they were grubs.

They have smooth stingers so they can sting as many times as they please without it killing them. Their technique for dealing with enemies is to grab them with their sticky little hands and feet, hold on, and sting multiple times.

They call other bees and wasps “little cousin” or “grandmother” and identify with them and sometimes consider a specific species of wasp or bee to be a symbol of their hive (like the animal on a coat of arms) or a representative of their ancestors.

Hives do have regional dialects - they aren’t as pronounced in the same area, sorta like neighboring towns are still mostly intelligible to each other, but it’s entirely normal for drones to show up on their doorstep who are completely unable to understand a word anyone says, and can’t say anything any of them understand either. Because they have flown from so far away they basically speak a different language. The mating dance is universal though so drones are able to wordlessly make their bid for acceptance by the queen and learn the local language or dialect through immersion later on (or not bother because who cares what anyone is saying/what they themselves are saying if they are well cared for).

If a queen dies for any reason, the youngest female grubs in the comb are found and transferred to queen chambers (larger wax chambers because queens are bigger and need more space to grow) and fed royal jelly so they can grow into queens and take her place. If no grubs are available when the queen dies, then things just fall apart.

Sometimes it falls apart quickly, in panic and chaos with workers laying eggs in a desperate bid to continue the genetic line and their sisters killing them for this abomination. Drones are chased away. Workers sink into self destructive behaviors and stop doing anything to keep operations running. Workers fly away and arrive on the doorstep of other hives, begging to be adopted, or fly away and attempt to live on their own.

Other times, things fall apart slowly. Everyone just quietly continues as before with the existential dread hanging over them that the hive is now basically dead and there’s nothing they can do to fix it. Workers get old and operations slow down. Individuals die and there’s no one to take their place. Slowly the hive dwindles down to nothing.

Dead hives like this are often taken over by new young queens who find them by chance and are like, “Score! We don’t have to waste time building comb!”

Workers have instincts related to doing their jobs but need to be taught how to employ their instincts. For example, no one needs to teach them how to navigate using the sun and light polarization, but they need to be told that they CAN do that, and what they need to look for in the sky to do it, otherwise they might not even look at the sky at all and get themselves lost. Think of it like how you need to practice to be good at throwing but you usually don’t need to be told an object you throw will fall to the ground because of gravity.

The default thing done with the dead is to carry them out of the hive and leave the body somewhere far enough away that they won’t infect anyone if they died of an illness. Whoever happens to be nearby does this, it’s a semi-automatic behavior to pick up the body and carry it away and workers are often shocked to discover themselves feeling compelled to do this.

Predators/scavengers rarely eat melliferians because the workers are full of nasty tasting pheromone chemicals and can sting even when dead, so corpses are usually not bothered by anything except decomposition even though they don’t bury them. When a death occurs, news spreads quickly of the exact location where the body was left and many bees will go look, even if they didn’t know them. Friends of the deceased may visit multiple times and touch the body.

Some hives have figured out how to do transplants, so sometimes the dead are harvested for parts before being removed. Wings are snapped off and kept by default, since the external wing membrane is completely dry and can be kept long term, unlike anything containing soft tissue that has to be hooked up to fresh hemolymph (blood) to keep it from decomposing.

faunmoss replied to your post “notmusa replied to your photo “Name changes! (and some design tweaks)…”

This has me wondering…. how are human-melliferian relations? do humans treat them more or less like crows or sparrows? or do they have formal treaties or are otherwise regarded as equal (and for that matter, do they consider humans as equally intelligent as themselves)?

Melliferians set the tone for the human/melliferian relationship. Being stinging insects, they are fearless around humans - a lot like real life wasps. But they also are smart enough to realize that even if they can sting their way out of an altercation, avoiding one entirely is preferable.

The combination of intelligent wariness and fearlessness makes them act a bit like pigeons. They don’t care about humans being around, but they will leisurely walk away from someone approaching them. They walk around doing their own thing like they have every right to be there. Except even more so than pigeons, because you can shoo them away with a startling noise and running toward them but doing that to a melliferian will make them stand their ground and make some VERY disconcerting noises (I like to think the “I’m going to fucking sting you back off” warning sound they make is a mixture of buzzing, radio static, and high pitched screaming).

Hives are hard to start and keep going on human territory because despite their defenses, humans still find ways to remove or damage hives, so hives tend to be outside of cities and towns, or in the more dilapidated areas where buildings sit empty for years - because of this, melliferians are not always a common sight, especially in dense cities that don’t have a lot of wild undeveloped green space.

So with all this in mind, humans consider them kind of a novelty - more so in cities and less so in rural areas where they are a common sight. They know OF them, often find them cute or interesting. They recognize the black and yellow stripes and orange wings as aposematic signals of an animal with defenses, so they are usually left alone. Sometimes they find them a nuisance, because they absolutely steal food, and sometimes they are considered dirty animals because they get into trash.

Humans have always known they were smart, but there were misunderstandings. The idea of a “hive mind” means that even though they witness melliferians walking around and being intelligent every day, they often discount this as an effect of them being part of the mystical hive mind. Individually they are thought to be empty shells without true intelligence. So workers often will get treated like objects even while clearly demonstrating intelligence, as if they were just vessels - walking telephones broadcasting a voice who’s origin is elsewhere.

Melliferians understand that humans are as smart as them, but also consider their behavior pretty inscrutable and bizarre. Melliferians are very open to the idea of forming alliances and relationships with individual humans as long as those humans are unfailingly predictable and clear in communicating intentions. This preference for predictability means they love human technology, traditions, institutions, holidays - things that happen repeatedly and nearly always the same way - but not so much humans, who are weird and random and scream a lot. Most of the time they treat humans like weirdly soft ambulatory trees. Obstacles that breath and have hair.


I’ve been thinking a lot about the gynandromorph bee. I realized because of the way bee chromosomes work, they’d have way more Harvey Dent shit going on than just the secondary sex characteristics. Rather like how calico cats are expressing coloration on different X chromosomes in chunks and patches, this bee would be expressing different chromosome’s ideas about what their coloration should be - except instead of one chromosome or the other, it’d be one or both.

They’ve got something of a place in the world forming in my head as a result of all my recent brain activity. Now if only I could decide their name!

I’ve decided to go back on my decision to allow Melliferians any molts after reaching adulthood - Once they are done being a squishy grub, that’s it, they gotta live with that carapace forever. Side effect: Vulture can’t wear his own face anymore. So I thought: what is similarly gruesome but still communicates that essential “well it’s mine I’ll do what I want with it” attitude?

(he didn’t rip his arm off for fashion, by the way, it needed to go anyhow)

Real life insects mimic all kinds of things, including lots of stinging insects that other animals don’t want to mess with. Of course a moth would want to look like a big scary sapient bee.

Melliferians call these moths headless ladies, since they sometimes mistake them for real bees from a distance, but still notice the lack of an appropriately proportioned head.