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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Oldroyd, B
item Halling, L
item Rinderer, Thomas

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/28/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Oldroyd, B.P., Halling, L., Rinderer, T.E. 1999. Development and Behaviour of Anarchistic Honey Bees. Meeting Abstract. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London. 226:1875-1878.

Interpretive Summary: A central problem in honey bee biology is the presence of sterile workers in colonies. Genetic theory explains that, because of the unusual sex-determination mechanism of honey bees, workers contribute more of their own genes to the next generation by raising closely related sisters as queens than by raising their own daughters as queens. However, not all of the workers in a colony are so closely related and individual workers would benefit by laying their own eggs. How they are prevented from doing so has long eluded honey bee scientists. This study of a line of bees having rare behavioral mutations shows that , in normal colonies, both ovary development is suppressed in workers, and where that suppression fails, worker laid eggs are destroyed by other workers in the colony.

Technical Abstract: Anarchistic honey bees result from extremely rare behavioural mutations that allow workers to lay eggs despite the presence of the queen. We investigated the behavioural development of bees derived from a line in which about 5% of workers have developed ovaries and lay viable eggs. Other than thier developed ovaries and proclivity to lay eggs, anarchistic workers are apparently normal, performing normal worker-like behaviour. Unlike laying workers in queenless colonies, they are not queen-like, and are not the objects of aggression. When day-old workers from anarchistic colonies were cross-fostered into anarchistic and wild-type host colonies, the frequency of ovary development was an order of magnitude higher in the anarchistic host (9.1%) than in the wild-type host (0.7%). This indicates that a policing mechanism that affects ovary development occures in honey bees. Thus, worker reproduction is suppressed both at the level of ovary development as well as oophagy of worker-laid eggs.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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