, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 480-484
Date: 25 Jun 2003

Different policing rates of eggs laid by queenright and queenless anarchistic honey-bee workers (Apis mellifera L.)

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Abstract

Worker-reproduction is rare in queenright honey-bee colonies. When workers do lay eggs, their eggs are normally eaten by other workers presumably because they lack the queen's egg-marking signal. Workers use the absence of this queen signal to enforce the queen's reproductive monopoly by policing any worker-laid eggs. In contrast, in anarchistic colonies, the majority of the males arise from worker-laid eggs. Anarchistic worker-laid eggs escape policing because workers perceive anarchistic eggs as queen-laid. However, in this study, we show that eggs laid by queenless anarchistic workers do not escape policing and have very similar removal rates to worker-laid eggs from queenless wild-type (i.e. non-anarchistic) colonies. This suggests that, under queenless conditions, eggs laid by anarchistic workers lose their chemical protection and are therefore no longer perceived as queen-laid. Hence, the egg-marking signal seems to be only applied to eggs when queen and brood are present. This suggests that in the absence of queen and brood, the biosynthetic pathway that produces the egg-marking signal is switched off.

Communicated by L. Keller