Research article

Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 113-116

Worker policing persists in a hopelessly queenless honey bee colony (Apis mellifera)

  • N. ChâlineAffiliated withLaboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield Email author 
  • , S. J. MartinAffiliated withLaboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield
  • , F. L. W. RatnieksAffiliated withLaboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

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Summary

In queenright colonies of Apis mellifera, worker policing normally eliminates worker-laid eggs thereby preventing worker reproduction. However, in queenless colonies that have failed to rear a replacement queen, worker reproduction is normal. Worker policing is switched off, many workers have active ovaries and lay eggs, and the colony rears a last batch of male brood before dying out. Here we report a colony which, when hopelessly queenless, did not stop policing although a high proportion of workers had active ovaries (12.6%) and many eggs were laid. However, all these eggs and also worker-laid eggs transferred from another colony were policed. This unusual pattern was repeated eight weeks later by a second queenless colony made using worker bees from the same mother colony, which strongly suggests genetic determination.

Worker policing queenless colony worker reproduction Apis mellifera honey bees