Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 6, pp 897–904 | Cite as

Racial mixing in South African honeybees: the effects of genotype mixing on reproductive traits of workers

  • Madeleine Beekman
  • Michael H. Allsopp
  • Michael J. Holmes
  • Julianne Lim
  • Lee-Ann Noach-Pienaar
  • Theresa C. Wossler
  • Benjamin P. Oldroyd
Original Paper


To test the hypothesis that the honeybee hybrid zone in South Africa is a tension zone due to increased reproductive conflict in colonies that contain both Apis mellifera capensis and Apis mellifera scutellata worker genotypes, we constructed mixed subspecies and hybrid colonies via a combination of artificial and natural matings. We measured emergence weight, ovary activation, and the presence/absence of a spermatheca on workers of different genotypes. We show that the measured characteristics were all affected by genotype with some traits also affected by the social environment in which the worker was reared. Workers with both an A. m. capensis mother and father had the highest emergence weight. When workers had an A. m. capensis mother, paternity affected emergence weight with A. m. capensis fathers producing heavier workers. When the queen was A. m. scutellata, paternity had less effect on weight. Presence of spermatheca was highest in mixed colonies irrespective of maternity and colonies containing pure A. m. capensis workers only. Paternity had a significant effect on the presence of a spermatheca within mixed colonies, with workers that had an A. m. capensis father being more likely to possess a spermatheca. Rates of ovary activation were highest in colonies with an A. m. scutellata queen mated to drones of both genotypes, suggesting that mixed subspecies colonies likely suffer increased reproductive strife among workers. Our results provide support for the hypothesis that the South African honeybee hybrid zone is a tension zone arising from reduced fitness of genetically mixed colonies.


Apis mellifera capensis Apis mellifera scutellata Hybrid zone Tension zone Reproductive conflict Social parasitism Worker reproduction 



We thank Christian Fransman for his indispensable help in the field. This work was supported by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Fund Centre of Excellence (to TCW), the Australian Research Council (grant number DP0878924 to BPO and MB) and the University of Sydney (to MB).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madeleine Beekman
    • 1
  • Michael H. Allsopp
    • 2
  • Michael J. Holmes
    • 1
  • Julianne Lim
    • 1
  • Lee-Ann Noach-Pienaar
    • 3
  • Theresa C. Wossler
    • 3
  • Benjamin P. Oldroyd
    • 1
  1. 1.Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Lab, School of Biological Sciences A12University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Honey Bee Research SectionARC-Plant Protection Research InstituteStellenboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Botany and Zoology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion BiologyUniversity of StellenboschMatielandSouth Africa

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