Worker policing in the bee Apis florea
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Apis florea is a single-combed, open-nesting, dwarf honeybee indigenous to Asia. In common with other species of this genus, A. florea is highly polyandrous, and is therefore predicted to curtail worker reproduction by mutual policing mechanisms that keep worker reproduction at an extremely low level. Policing mechanisms could involve destruction of workers' eggs or offspring, or aggression toward those workers that are reproductively active. We show that in A. florea, worker-laid eggs are eliminated approximately twice as fast as queen-laid eggs, indicating that A. florea uses oophagy of worker-laid eggs as a mechanism of worker policing. Genetic analysis of four colonies indicated that all males produced were sons of queens, not workers. Dissections of 800 workers, from four colonies, did not reveal any significant levels of ovary activation. These results suggest that worker policing is an effective component of the mechanisms that maintain worker sterility in this species. Furthermore, they suggest that worker policing via oophagy of worker-laid eggs is pleisiomorphic for the genus.
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