0700 Reproductive quality of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) queens

Tuesday, November 18, 2008: 10:56 AM
Room A8, First Floor (Reno-Sparks Convention Center)
David Tarpy , Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Susan E. Fahrbach , Biology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC
Jennifer Keller , Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Joel R. Caren , Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Deborah A. Delaney , Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
Queen bees are the most important individuals within honey bee colonies for both social and genetic reasons. Consequently, a major emphasis of apicultural research has been to improve the quality of honey bee queens so that their colonies are more productive. One factor that determines a queen’s quality is how well she is mated, a trait that is often overlooked when assessing her reproductive potential and overall colony productivity. After all, the genetic composition of workers within a colony derives from an equal contribution of genes from the queen and her numerous mates. We investigated the “mating health” of honey bee queens at several levels. First, we determined their physical health by measuring numerous morphological characteristics that are indicative of their reproductive quality, including ovariole number. Second, we tested their insemination success by performing sperm counts on the contents of their spermathecae (their sperm storage organs). Third, we determined their mating numbers by performing genetic paternity analyses on their offspring, enabling us to quantify the number of drones with which the queens have mated. We found significant differences among the sources of the tested queens, as well as correlations among many of the important measures of physical, insemination, and mating health of the queens. These findings may point toward future directions of research that will help improve the mating health of honey bee queens.

doi: 10.1603/ICE.2016.38416