, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 247-254

A quantitative study of worker reproduction in honey bee colonies

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In 11 Apis mellifera colonies with laying queens, about 0.12% of the males produced derived from eggs laid by workers. This result requires explanation both of why workers produce any males, and, since they do, why they produce so few. Workers may maximize their inclusive fitness by forgoing reproduction, or their sterility may be due to to enforcement of the interests of the queen or those of other workers. The presence of laying workers might then result from developmental noise in the workers, from a failure of communication of the queen's presence, or a failure of enforcement mechanisms. Selection for worker reproduction in colonies following queen loss may also play a role in shaping worker reproduction in colonies with a queen. The hypothesis of worker sterility enforced by other workers seems most likely to be correct, but further studies on these hypotheses are needed.