, 98:795

Cross-species correlation between queen mating numbers and worker ovary sizes suggests kin conflict may influence ovary size evolution in honeybees


    • Department of BiologyUniversity of North Carolina
  • Mananya Phaincharoen
    • Ratchaburi CampusKing Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi
  • Ryan Kuster
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of North Carolina
  • Salim Tingek
    • Agricultural Research Station
Short Communication

DOI: 10.1007/s00114-011-0822-z

Cite this article as:
Rueppell, O., Phaincharoen, M., Kuster, R. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2011) 98: 795. doi:10.1007/s00114-011-0822-z


During social evolution, the ovary size of reproductively specialized honey bee queens has dramatically increased while their workers have evolved much smaller ovaries. However, worker division of labor and reproductive competition under queenless conditions are influenced by worker ovary size. Little comparative information on ovary size exists in the different honey bee species. Here, we report ovariole numbers of freshly dissected workers from six Apis species from two locations in Southeast Asia. The average number of worker ovarioles differs significantly among species. It is strongly correlated with the average mating number of queens, irrespective of body size. Apis dorsata, in particular, is characterized by numerous matings and very large worker ovaries. The relation between queen mating number and ovary size across the six species suggests that individual selection via reproductive competition plays a role in worker ovary size evolution. This indicates that genetic diversity, generated by multiple mating, may bear a fitness cost at the colony level.


Social evolutionLevels of selectionWorker reproductionCaste divergenceReproductive conflictOvarioles

Supplementary material

114_2011_822_MOESM1_ESM.doc (202 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 202 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011