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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Influence of Worker Behavior and Paternity on the Development and Emergence of Honey Bee Queens

Authors
item Schneider, Stan - UNIVERSITY N. CAROLINA
item Degrandi-Hoffman, Gloria

Submitted to: Insectes Sociaux
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 14, 2002
Publication Date: November 6, 2002
Citation: Schneider, S. S., DeGrandi-Hoffman, G. The influence of worker behavior and paternity on the development and emergence of honey bee queens. 2002. Insectes Sociaux 49, 306-314.

Interpretive Summary: Honey bee colonies raise new queens when the colony is going to swarm or if the queen dies or needs to be replaced. Workers make many potential replacement queens but only one becomes the new queen of the colony. How workers interact with the developing queens could influence who becomes the new queen. This is especially important if the colony contains both European and African patriline worker bees. In fact, if workers exhibit patriline bias when rearing queens, it could potentially contribute to the spread of African bees. We examined interactions between workers and developing queen in colonies that contained either an African or European matriline queen mated to both African and European males (drones). We found that worker interactions strongly influenced the queen's developmental success (i.e., the probability that she would develop to emergence). Queen cells that developed to emergence were initiated sooner during the rearing process, we started from eggs versus larvae, were fed and incubated at higher rates, and received more "vibration signals" from workers compared to queen cells that were destroyed before emergence. However, worker interactions with the developing queens did not influence the order that the queens emerged. We found that African paternity workers were more involved in queen rearing than their European-paternity nestmates. While workers exhibited a feeding preference for queen larvae that were full sisters, it does not appear that workers favor the development of queens of a particular patriline.

Technical Abstract: Honey bee colonies raise new queens during reproductive swarming and emergency queen replacement. Worker interactions with developing queens could influence the outcome of the replacement process. If workers exhibit racial bias during queen rearing it could potentially contribute to the spread of African bees in the New World. We examined worker-queen cell interactions in hybrid colonies that contained an African or European matriline and both patrilines. Worker interactions strongly influenced a queen's developmental success (i.e., the probability that she would develop to emergence). Queen cells that developed to emergence were initiated sooner during the rearing process, were started from eggs versus larvae, were fed and incubated at higher rates, and received more "vibration signals" from workers than cells that were destroyed. Worker interactions did not influence emergence order (i.e., the sequence that queens emerged relative to one another). African paternity workers were more involved than their European-paternity nestmates in queen rearing. In both colony matrilines, workers exhibited a super-sister preference when feeding queen larvae, but showed variable or no preferences when incubating and vibrating queen cells. Workers did not favor the development of queens of a particular patriline. While worker honey bees may use a variety of mechanisms to influence whether queens will develop to emergence, these mechanisms do not appear to affect the order of emergence.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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