From Orcas to Hyenas: Meet the Queens of the Animal Kingdom | wild animals


The queen bee is fed royal jelly, a nutrient-rich substance produced by worker bees

The queen bee is the only female in the colony capable of reproducing, and she can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day. The queen gives a pheromone that sends a message to the workers about her health and productivity. It is constantly looked after by the worker bee court. Among other things, they process it and control what you eat. Throughout the larval stage, they will be fed royal jelly (a nutrient-rich substance produced by worker bees) and at certain times of the year the workers will put their queen on a diet so that she can fly long distances when the colony is overrun – splitting in two when there are too many bees for one queen. One in three intakes of our food and about 90% of wild plants depend on pollination by animals such as bees. But pollinators are running out. In the UK, a third of our wild bee population is declining. This is partly due to habitat loss: in the UK, wildflower meadows have declined by 97% since the 1930s, and only 7% of UK forests are in good ecological condition.


An African lion with cubs in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Although they are known as the “kings of the jungle,” lions live in groups made up mostly of females, who are responsible for hunting and providing for other pride members. Pride lions usually consist of related females and their cubs, and lions are unique among cats in the way they live and work together. They give birth at the same time, they raise the cubs en masse inside the pride, and the cubs can suckle from any female with milk. About two-thirds of females stay within the pride in which they were born. Lions are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. African lions have declined by more than 40% in the past three generations, having disappeared from more than 90% of their historical range. The main threats to lions are retaliatory or preventive killing to protect human life and livestock, habitat loss and the reduction of natural prey.


An orca with its baby in Puget Sound off Washington State.

Found in every ocean on the planet, these large dolphins (the killer whale is not a whale) are one of the most widespread mammals in the world. Behaviors vary greatly from one compartment to another, but most remain in coherent maternal groups, with leadership passing from mother to daughter. Orcas are one of the few mammals known to go through menopause, and females live to the age of 90. Older females pass on valuable and complex knowledge about food resources and social habits, which can be the difference between life and death – a study found that young orca with grandmothers were more likely to survive than those without. In addition to being educated, calves are also disciplined by their mothers, who show signs of anger by actions such as banging their tails in the water and making noises with their teeth. With the intensification of human activity, threats to the world’s oceans increase, orcas face many dangers such as entanglement in fishing gear, food shortages due to overfishing, and changes in the distribution of prey associated with the climate crisis. It has also become increasingly difficult for them to use echolocation to find prey as shipping intensifies and the oceans become more noisy. Toxic pollutants can also harm the immune system and reproductive systems of killer whales.

spotted hyenas

Spotted hyenas at Ol Pejeta Reserve in Kenya.

Spotted hyenas live in clans of up to 80 individuals led by alpha females. In these matrilineal societies, the females evolved to be larger than the males and do most of the hunting, dictating the social structure and raising the cubs. Females always remain with the clan in which they were born, inheriting the rank of their mother in the complex and competitive social ladder. The litters are usually two or three cubs born in private dens or a major common den. Soon after birth, they begin to struggle for dominance, particularly in same-sex births. Most males disperse to join other clans as they start at the bottom of the group hierarchy, which means that the higher-ranking male is mostly subordinate to the younger females. This maternal structure lends itself to the preservation of genetic diversity: dominant males can give birth to a disproportionate number of cubs in a single clan, while dominant females, who can only give birth to many cubs at once and often have multiple partners, avoid This danger.

The elephants

A herd of African elephants in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya

Female elephants and their young offspring live in close family groups, led by the mother – often the largest and oldest female in the family. Similar to the monarchy, elephants show succession: upon the death of the mother, her eldest daughter usually takes her place as the leader. Proof of wisdom comes with age, a study found that older elephants were better at assessing threats from predators than their younger counterparts, making them more effective at protecting the group. African savannah elephants are considered an endangered species, and African forest elephants are highly endangered and their numbers are declining. Africa has lost about 90% of its elephants in the last century, largely due to the ivory trade. Habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, and climate collapse also threaten this species. Elephants in Africa need to drink up to 300 liters of water per day. Higher temperatures, lower rainfall and periods of severe drought will threaten their survival and cause high calves mortality.


Female ring-tailed lemurs with infants in southern Madagascar

There are about 100 species of lemurs, and in most social structures the dominant role is played by females. They are the only type of primates where males and females are similar in size; Females are usually smaller. Female lemurs show signs of dominance through the ways in which they mark their territory within the group. They are also known to snatch food from males and drive them out of their sleeping quarters. Wild lemurs can only be found on the island of Madagascar, where a third of all lemur species are in danger of extinction. They are under threat from habitat destruction, foraging for meat, and from climate collapse. A study from the World Wide Fund for Nature found that populations of 57 lemur species would decline by 60% if global temperature rose by 2-4°C by the end of this century.


A group of bonobos walk along the edge of a lake in Lula Ya Bonobo National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Bonobos are the only great apes that are female-led social groups. While the hierarchy between males and females is balanced, there is usually a group at the top led by an older female. Female bonobos are much smaller than males, so instead of being ruled by absolute physical strength, a leader tends to gain her rank through age, experience, and ability to form strong bonds and alliances with other females in the group. Female bonobos have been known to rally against males who have attempted to harm or intimidate another female in their group, even when that female is not related to them, thus preventing males from forcibly dominating. Poaching and habitat loss remain major threats to this endangered species, which can only be found in the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.