Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 537–547 | Cite as

Queen traits and colony size of four bumblebee species of China

  • H. Zhang
  • Z. Zhou
  • J. Huang
  • X. Yuan
  • G. Ding
  • J. AnEmail author
Research Article


Bumblebee pollination efficiency is significantly affected by colony size, which differs among different bumblebee species. Bumblebee colonies are initiated by a single queen; thus queen traits have an important influence on colony development. To make better use of native bumblebee species and select bumblebee species for commercial rearing, queens from four bumblebee species in China, Bombus terrestris, B. lantschouensis, B. patagiatus and B. ignitus, were reared and studied to determine whether differences in queen traits and colony size occur at the interspecific level. In our study, the four bumblebee species differed significantly in colony size, queen body length, spermatheca size and sperm quantity. The queens of the four species mated only once. Among these four bumblebee species, the species with more sperm in the queen’s spermatheca usually exhibited a larger colony size. The quantity of sperm in the queen’s spermatheca might serve as an indicator for selecting bumblebee species with commercial rearing potential. However, our study involved only four bumblebee species; more bumblebee species are needed to confirm the correlation between queen sperm quantity and colony size.


Bombus Native species Rearing characteristics Resource selection 



Thanks to Shiwen Zhang, Aiping Han, Zhengying Miao, and Fangzhi Han for the wild queen collection work; to Wenbo Zhang for the bumblebee rearing work; to Paul H. Williams for identifying the bumblebee species; to reviewers for their comments and hard work; and to Cheng Sun and Yanjie Liu for their helpful discussions.

Author contribution

JA conceived the research and designed the paper. HZ performed the research, analysed the data and wrote the paper. ZZ performed the research and analysed the data along with HZ. JH performed the research and improved the paper. XY and GD performed the research.


This work was supported by the Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Programme (CAAS-ASTIP-2015-IAR) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (31672500, U1603108).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Z. Zhou
    • 1
  • J. Huang
    • 1
  • X. Yuan
    • 1
  • G. Ding
    • 1
  • J. An
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory for Insect-Pollinator Biology of the Ministry of Agriculture, Institute of Apicultural ResearchChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory for Biology of Plant Diseases and Insect Pests, Institute of Plant ProtectionChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina

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