Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 56, Issue 5, pp 458–463 | Cite as

Sperm utilization pattern in the honeybee (Apis mellifera)

  • Helge SchlünsEmail author
  • Gudrun Koeniger
  • Nikolaus Koeniger
  • Robin F. A. Moritz
Original Article


Queen honeybees (Apis mellifera) mate with a large number of drones on their nuptial flights. Not all drones contribute equally to the queen’s offspring and the queen’s utilization pattern of spermatozoa from different drones has an important impact on the genetic composition of the colony. Here we study the consequences of sperm use for the fitness of the queen’s mates with microsatellite DNA-fingerprinting. Eight queens were instrumentally inseminated with semen of six or seven drones. Each drone contributed either 0.5 µl or 1.0 µl semen, respectively, and we analyzed both the impact of the insemination sequence and the amount of semen on the sperm utilization. Our data show no significant effect of the insemination sequence but a strong impact of the semen volume of a drone on the frequency of his worker offspring in the colony. This effect was not linear and the patriline frequencies of the drones contributing larger semen volumes are disproportionately enhanced. If these observations are also valid for natural matings, drone honeybees should maximize the number of sperm but not apply specific mating tactics to be first or last male in a mating sequence.


Polyandry Sperm utilization Microsatellite DNA Honeybee Drone 



We would like to thank Beate Springer and Petra Leibe for technical assistance. We thank F. Bernhard Kraus and Ellen A. Schlüns for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. The experiments were performed in accordance with the rules and regulations of Germany. Financial support was granted by the network Beekeeping and Apis Biodiversity in Europe (BABE, European Commission).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helge Schlüns
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gudrun Koeniger
    • 3
  • Nikolaus Koeniger
    • 3
  • Robin F. A. Moritz
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für ZoologieMartin-Luther-Universität Halle-WittenbergGermany
  2. 2.School of Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Institut für Bienenkunde (Polytechnische Gesellschaft)Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am MainGermany

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