, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 337–343 | Cite as

Mating flights select for symmetry in honeybee drones (Apis mellifera)



Males of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) fly to specific drone congregation areas (DCAs), which virgin queens visit in order to mate. From the thousands of drones that are reared in a single colony, only very few succeed in copulating with a queen, and therefore, a strong selection is expected to act on adult drones during their mating flights. In consequence, the gathering of drones at DCAs may serve as an indirect mate selection mechanism, assuring that queens only mate with those individuals having a better flight ability and a higher responsiveness to the queen’s visual and chemical cues. Here, we tested this idea relying on wing fluctuating asymmetry (FA) as a measure of phenotypic quality. By recapturing marked drones at a natural DCA and comparing their size and FA with a control sample of drones collected at their maternal hives, we were able to detect any selection on wing size and wing FA occurring during the mating flights. Although we found no solid evidence for selection on wing size, wing FA was found to be significantly lower in the drones collected at the DCA than in those collected at the hives. Our results demonstrate the action of selection during drone mating flights for the first time, showing that developmental stability can influence the mating ability of honeybee drones. We therefore conclude that selection during honeybee drone mating flights may confer some fitness advantages to the queens.


Apis mellifera Developmental stability Drone congregation area Fluctuating asymmetry Mating flights 

Supplementary material

114_2009_638_MOESM1_ESM.doc (572 kb)
S1Map showing the location of the study hives and the drone congregation area in Halle, Germany (courtesy of Google Earth V4.3.7). (DOC 571 kb)
114_2009_638_MOESM2_ESM.xls (70 kb)
S2Table showing the haplotype assignments and consensus reconstruction of the sibships of 144 marked Apis mellifera drones recaptured at their maternal hives and at a nearby drone congregation area. (XLS 69 kb)
114_2009_638_MOESM3_ESM.doc (256 kb)
S3Figure showing the 14 morphological characters measured in the forewings of Apis mellifera drones. Distances (D) are shown in red, while angles (A) are shown in yellow. (DOC 256 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Ecology, Institute of BiologyMartin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  2. 2.Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal Biology (M092)The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, Molecular and Chemical Sciences BuildingThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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