Submitted to: American Bee Research Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/1/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: While pursuing research on the storage of honey bee germplasm (eggs and semen), I have found that honey bee sperm may be very unusual among domesticated species in the length of time that they survive outside the organism. In a recently published study, (Collins, 2000 J. Econ. Entomol. 93:568-571) I reported on the survival over one year of sperm collected using a Harbo syringe (Harbo, 1985 Amer. Bee J. 125:197-202) and stored at room temperature (25 C) or in a refrigerator (12 C). No additives to the semen were used, as I was interested in the natural capacity of the sperm to survive. A dual flourescent stain system (Collins & Donoghue, 1999 Theriogenology 51:1513-1523) which colors dead sperm red and live sperm green was used to measure the stored samples for the percentage of live sperm. The stored semen samples had enough live sperm to be used for artificial insemination at least as long as 39 weeks after collection. Samples held for one year, however, were less viable, depending on the storage temperature. Because we are also studying the biochemistry of the spermatheca, I wanted to know if significant numbers of sperm also died while being stored in the queen's spermatheca. In a small study of eleven queens done in 1999, five month old queens had more dead sperm in the spermatheca than did newly mated queens. Although the difference was not significant, I did a much larger study in 2000, comparing 30 newly mated queens with queens that had been heading up production colonies for one year. The percentage of live sperm present in the spermathecae of these two types of queens were not significantly different. Therefore, the queen must provide some additional protection for survival of the sperm during storage in the spermatheca.