, Volume 95, Issue 5, pp 427–432 | Cite as

Kin composition effects on reproductive competition among queenless honeybee workers

  • Shani Inbar
  • Tamar Katzav-Gozansky
  • Abraham Hefetz
Original Paper


Kin selection and inclusive fitness theories predict that, in hopeless queenless (QL) groups, competition or cooperation will occur over male production among workers of different patrilines. Competition is expected to involve mutual inhibition of reproduction and to affect fertility advertisement. To examine kin effect on these phenomena, we studied QL groups of honeybee workers comprising three types of kin structure: groups composed of pure single patrilines, groups composed of three mixed patrilines (all originating from colonies headed by single-drone-inseminated queens), and control groups composed of bees originating from naturally mated queens. Global assessment of ovarian development, irrespective of patriline composition, revealed no differences among group types. In contrast, the performance of specific patrilines revealed that, in the three-mixed-patriline groups, some patrilines were reproductively suppressed compared to their performance when reared as a pure single patriline, resulting in an uneven share of reproduction. Analysis of the fertility signal produced by Dufour’s gland revealed kin composition effects, which may reflect the bees’ competitive efforts. Although patriline effects on worker reproductive superiority have been shown in QL colonies, we were able to investigate specific patriline performance both in competitive and noncompetitive situations here for the first time. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that reproductive and pheromonal competitions in QL groups are affected by the number of subfamilies populating a colony and that these act as coalitions. The results also emphasize that within-colony heterogeneity, in the form of multiple patrilines, has far-reaching consequences on social evolution.


Dufour’s gland Ovary activation Fertility signal Patrilines Single-drone insemination Reproductive competition 



This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation founded by the Israel Academy of Sciences (ISF grant no. 720/04 to Abraham Hefetz). We thank Osnat Malka for her assistance in setting up the experiments, Josef Kamer and Haim Efrat from Tzrifin Apiary for their assistance in establishing the experimental hives, and Naomi Paz for the editorial assistance. The experiments comply with the current laws of Israel where they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shani Inbar
    • 1
  • Tamar Katzav-Gozansky
    • 1
  • Abraham Hefetz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life SciencesTel Aviv UniversityRamat AvivIsrael

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