Original Article


, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1-13

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The physical, insemination, and reproductive quality of honey bee queens (Apis mellifera L.)

  • Deborah A. DelaneyAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, North Carolina State University
  • , Jennifer J. KellerAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, North Carolina State University
  • , Joel R. CarenAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, North Carolina State University
  • , David R. TarpyAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, North Carolina State University Email author 


Understanding the reproductive potential (“quality”) of queens bees can provide valuable insights into factors that influence colony phenotype. We assayed queens from various commercial sources for various measures of potential queen quality, including their physical characters (such as their degree of parasitism), insemination number (stored sperm counts), and effective paternity frequency (number of drone fathers among their offspring). We found significant variation in the physical, insemination, and mating quality of commercially produced queens, and we detected significant correlations within and among these various measures. Overall, the queens were sufficiently inseminated (3.99 ± 1.504 million sperm) and mated with an appropriate number of drones (effective paternity frequency: 16.0 ± 9.48). Importantly, very few of the queens were parasitized by tracheal mites and none were found with either Nosema species. These findings suggest possible mechanisms for assessing the potential fitness of honey bee queens without the need for destructive sampling.


honey bee queens reproductive potential insemination parasitism effective mating frequency