G+ YouTube Pinterest Instagram
The Gap Year Blog

5 Matriarchal Species

30 Oct 2017 16:25 PM

Honey Bees

In a honeybee hive, nearly all the bees are female. All the workers and all the soldiers are female, and they run the hive. A bee hive has the social structure of a matriarchal family and life centers around the queen bee. On average, she will live 2-3 years, compared to the male bees, which are called drones, and they only live around 6-8 weeks. The drones do not have stingers or gather nectar and pollen, like their female counterparts, and their primary role is to mate with a fertile queen. To make matters worse for the drones, they usually die whilst mating, or are expelled from the hive before winter sets in.

wikimedia | Jon Sullivan

Orca Whales

Killer Whales are highly sociable animals and interact with each other actively. Their social structures are very complex and their pods are usually organized as a matriarchal society. The bond between a mother and her calf is like no other. Like humans, female orcas undergo menopause and go on to live long past their child-bearing days. Some orcas live as long as 90 years old, surpassing that of their male counterparts who average at 50 years and are looked up to as a source of wisdom in their old age. Research has shown that elderly killer whales direct younger members of their pods towards food and give them hunting tips.

Flickr | Rennett Stowe

Spotted Hyenas

In the world of spotted hyenas, the female hyenas are larger than the males and they dominate them. They are more aggressive than the males and in the clan’s strict power structure, adult males rank last and the clan is ruled by an alpha female. Even in mating, females have complete control: the female hyenas have what is called a “pseudopenis”, which they must consciously choose to retract in order to permit the male hyenas to mate with them – so yes, that means the female hyenas have complete control!

Flickr | Per Arne Slotte


As our closest ancestors, it is possible to see motherly similarities between bonobos and humans. In bonobo society, the females form very strong bonds with each other, with the highest ranking males being the sons of high ranking females. Bonobos prove that sisterhood is very powerful – although female bonobos are smaller than the males, they still dominate the males by sticking together. If a male steps out of line and begins harassing a female, all the other female bonobos will team up together and gang up on him. The females are most definitely in charge and their dominance keeps the male bonobos in line.

Flickr | Karissa Burnett


Known for both their superior intelligence as well as their structured social order, elephants are a matriarchal society and the males and females live entirely separate lives. An elephant’s herd is led by a head cow, who presides over her herd of females and she is usually the oldest and often largest female. The rest of the herd is made up of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts – that’s a whole lot of womanhood! In comparison, male elephants travel apart from the matriarchal herd either alone or with other male elephants in a bachelor pod. As elephants enjoy such rigid social structures, they are able to form close bonds within their immediate family and herd and females benefit gravely from this security.

Flickr | tontontravel

Even though the males are usually thought of as the protectors in animal packs, these animals prove that being a feisty female certainly pays off!