Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 101–107 | Cite as

The influence of drone physical condition on the likelihood of receiving vibration signals from worker honey bees, Apis mellifera

  • J. D. Slone
  • T. L. Stout
  • Z. Y. Huang
  • S. S. SchneiderEmail author
Research Article


Honey bee workers will perform vibration signals on adult drones, which respond by increasing the time spent receiving trophallaxis. Because trophallaxis provides the proteins for sexual maturation, workers could direct vibration signals towards drones showing certain physical characteristics, potentially influencing drone development and colony reproductive output. We examined the influence of drone condition on the likelihood of receiving vibration signals by comparing body weight, protein concentrations, and hemolymph juvenile hormone (JH) titers between drones that received the vibration signal and same-age, non-vibrated controls. Vibrated and control drones did not differ in total body weight, abdomen weight, abdomen-to-body weight ratio, total protein concentrations, or hemolymph JH titers. In contrast, vibrated drones had significantly lower thorax weight and smaller thorax-to-body weight ratios compared with controls. Because relative thorax weight may affect flight ability and mating success, workers could use the vibration signal to increase the care received by less developed drones, potentially contributing to the production of greater numbers of competitive males. However, the differences in thorax weights, while significant, were very small, and it is unknown how such slight differences might be assessed by workers or affect drone performance. Nevertheless, vibration signals performed on drones may provide opportunities for exploring the effect of the quality of reproductive individuals on caste interactions in honey bees.


Drones Vibration signal Reproductive potential Caste interactions Worker–drone interactions Communication 



We thank two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the manuscript. We thank R. Byrd, B. Castelsky, B. Groce, T. Huynh, C. Korb, S. Lewis, K. Myers, C.T. Nguyen, S. Palme, R. Summey, M. Weber and M. Wright for their many hours of help with marking and observing bees. L. Leamy provided statistical advice. The research reported here comprises a portion of the undergraduate Honors research of J. Slone and was supported by the National Science Foundation (0754748) and funds provided by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. D. Slone
    • 1
  • T. L. Stout
    • 1
  • Z. Y. Huang
    • 2
  • S. S. Schneider
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of North CarolinaCharlotteUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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