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The nearer the better? Drones (Apis mellifera) prefer nearer drone congregation areas


At 2 drone congregation areas (DCA) the relation between drone presence and distance to the apiary of origin was studied. Two methods were applied. First, drones were caught and marked on the DCA and later recovered in the colonies. Second, drones which were marked before at the apiary (in the colonies) were subsequently recaptured on both DCA’s. The 2 methods led to identical conclusions. Consistently in each of 3 years the majority of the drones from each of the 3 apiaries was found at the nearer DCA. There was, however, no direct correlation between the flight distances and the ratio of drones visiting from each apiary. Thus some other factors (“attractiveness” of the DCA) may also have influenced the choice of the drones. Our findings support the idea that there is an orientation phase during which drones explore several DCA’s before each drone stays at 1 DCA, and energetic choices made by drones in relation to flight distances seem to be important. The choice of the nearer DCA would permit the drone to prolong his presence at the DCA and increase his chances to mate: “the nearer the better”!

The drone’s strategy to chose the nearer DCA would boost the genetic representation of local colonies and this “drone clumping” would increase genetic differences among the DCA’s within an area. In this context the choice of virgin queens among DCA’s is of great significance.

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Correspondence to N. Koeniger or G. Koeniger.

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Received 1 December 2003; revised 9 April 2004; accepted 7 June 2004.

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Koeniger, N., Koeniger, G. & Pechhacker, H. The nearer the better? Drones (Apis mellifera) prefer nearer drone congregation areas. Insectes Soc. 52, 31–35 (2005).

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Key words.

  • Apis mellifera
  • reproduction
  • mating behavior
  • drone congregation
  • population genetics