, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp 649-660

The role of queen mandibular pheromone and colony congestion in honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) reproductive swarming (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

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Abstract

The roles of honey bee queen mandibular pheromone and colony congestion in the inhibition of swarming were investigated. Two colony siz.es were used: small, congested colonies and large, uncongested colonies. Both groups of colonies were treated with various dosages of the five-component, synthetic queen mandibular pheromone in the spring, and the extent and timing of swarming were followed. Most treatment groups received pheromone or a solvent blank (control) on a stationary slide; one group of the congested colonies received a pheromone treatment via an aerosol spray. The pheromone was not effective at delaying swarming in the congested colonies at any dosage applied on slides, but the aerosol spray-treated colonies swarmed significantly later in the season than the control colonies. The uncongested, pheromone-treated colonies exhibited a dose-dependent delay in swarming, with the highest dosage colonies swarming almost four weeks later than the control colonies. These results indicate an interaction between congestion and pheromone in the control of honey bee reproduction. While congestion may in itself be a factor stimulating swarming, these results are consistent with the interpretation that colony congestion reduces the transmission of queen pheromone within the nest, thereby removing the queen 's pheromone-based inhibition of queen rearing and subsequent swarming by workers.