Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 453–462 | Cite as

Colony fissioning in honey bees: size and significance of the swarm fraction

Research Article

Abstract

During colony founding in honey bees, a portion of a colony’s workforce (the “swarm fraction”) departs with the old mother queen in a swarm while the remaining workforce stays with a new daughter queen in the parental nest. There is little quantitative information about swarm fraction size and about how swarm fraction size affects the growth and survival of mother-queen and daughter-queen colonies. We measured (a) the swarm fraction in naturally fissioning honey bee colonies, (b) the growth and survival of mother-queen colonies as a function of swarm size, and (c) the growth and survival of mother-queen and daughter-queen colonies as a function of the swarm fraction. We found an average swarm fraction of 0.75. We also found a significant positive effect of swarm size and swarm fraction on the growth (i.e., comb built, brood produced, food stored, and weight gained) and the survival of mother-queen colonies. We found no effect of swarm fraction on the survival of daughter-queen colonies. Evidently, a honey bee colony must devote a large majority of its workforce to a swarm so that the mother-queen colony can grow sufficiently rapidly to survive its first winter.

Keywords

Apis mellifera Colony fissioning Honey bees Swarm fraction Swarming 

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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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