Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 343–348 | Cite as

The evolution of polyandry by queens in social Hymenoptera: the significance of the timing of removal of diploid males

  • Francis L. W. Ratnieks


Multiple mating by queens in social Hymenoptera with single locus sex determination may be an adaptation to reduce the effect of genetic load caused by the production of diploid males, if there is a concave relationship between queen fitness and the proportion of diploid male offspring in the colony. In this situation queens should be selected to reduce the variance in the production of diploid male offspring by multiple mating. It has been suggested that this concave relationship occurs in species such as the honey bee, Apis mellifera, in which reproduction occurs near the peak of colony population. This paper suggests that the timing of diploid male removal may influence mating frequency, with early removal of diploid males favoring multiple mating and late removal of diploid males favoring single mating. This idea is explored in two ways. A mathematical model shows that cell use in the brood area of species that rear young in cells will be more efficient with multiple mating. This would favor multiple mating in species, such as the honey bee, in which brood rearing is constrained by the usable area of the brood chamber. Secondly, comparison of polyandrous honey bees (early removal of diploid males as young larvae) with monandrous fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, and Melipona bees (non-removal of immature diploid males) suggests that in the species without diploid male removal, variance reduction may reduce queen fitness. Suggestions are made for testing this hypothesis.


Brood Chamber Multiple Mating Genetic Load Diploid Male Early Removal 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francis L. W. Ratnieks
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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