, 98:795 | Cite as

Cross-species correlation between queen mating numbers and worker ovary sizes suggests kin conflict may influence ovary size evolution in honeybees

  • Olav RueppellEmail author
  • Mananya Phaincharoen
  • Ryan Kuster
  • Salim Tingek
Short Communication


During social evolution, the ovary size of reproductively specialized honey bee queens has dramatically increased while their workers have evolved much smaller ovaries. However, worker division of labor and reproductive competition under queenless conditions are influenced by worker ovary size. Little comparative information on ovary size exists in the different honey bee species. Here, we report ovariole numbers of freshly dissected workers from six Apis species from two locations in Southeast Asia. The average number of worker ovarioles differs significantly among species. It is strongly correlated with the average mating number of queens, irrespective of body size. Apis dorsata, in particular, is characterized by numerous matings and very large worker ovaries. The relation between queen mating number and ovary size across the six species suggests that individual selection via reproductive competition plays a role in worker ovary size evolution. This indicates that genetic diversity, generated by multiple mating, may bear a fitness cost at the colony level.


Social evolution Levels of selection Worker reproduction Caste divergence Reproductive conflict Ovarioles 



We thank Prachaval Sukumalanand, Deborah Smith, Gudrun and Nikolaus Königer, Evelyn Hunggims, Michael Burgett, and all members of the social insect group at UNCG for their kind practical support. We also thank Gudrun and Nikolaus Königer and four anonymous reviewers for their comments on a previous version of the manuscript. This work was supported financially by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2010-65104-20533, the National Institute of Aging (#PO1 AG22500), the National Science Foundation (#0615502), and the National Research University Project of Thailand's Office of the Higher Education Commission.

Supplementary material

114_2011_822_MOESM1_ESM.doc (202 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 202 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olav Rueppell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mananya Phaincharoen
    • 2
  • Ryan Kuster
    • 1
  • Salim Tingek
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of North CarolinaGreensboroUSA
  2. 2.Ratchaburi CampusKing Mongkut’s University of Technology ThonburiBangkokThailand
  3. 3.Agricultural Research StationTenomMalaysia

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