Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 10, pp 1509–1514

Preservation and loss of the honey bee (Apis) egg-marking signal across evolutionary time

  • Piyamas Nanork
  • Siriwat Wongsiri
  • Benjamin P. Oldroyd
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-007-0382-6

Cite this article as:
Nanork, P., Wongsiri, S. & Oldroyd, B.P. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2007) 61: 1509. doi:10.1007/s00265-007-0382-6


Honey bee workers are able to distinguish queen-laid eggs from worker-laid eggs, and remove (‘police’) worker-laid eggs. The cue that police workers use is as yet unidentified but is likely to be a chemical signal. This signal benefits queens for it ensures their reproductive monopoly. It also benefits collective workers because it allows them to raise more closely related queen-laid males than the less-related sons of half sisters. Because both parties benefit from the egg-marking signal, it should be stable over evolutionary time. We show that Apis mellifera workers can distinguish queen-laid from worker-laid eggs of the dwarf honey bee A. florea, a phylogenetically distant species that diverged from the A. mellifera lineage 6–10 mya. However, A. mellifera workers are unable to distinguish worker-laid eggs of A. cerana, a much more recent divergence (2–3 mya). The apparent change in the egg-marking signal used by A. cerana may be associated with the high rates of ovary activation in this species.


Worker policingApis floreaApis ceranaApis melliferaSignals

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piyamas Nanork
    • 1
  • Siriwat Wongsiri
    • 2
  • Benjamin P. Oldroyd
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMahasarakham UniversityMahasarakhamThailand
  2. 2.Faculty of TechnologyMahasarakham UniversityMahasarakhamThailand
  3. 3.Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia