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Return of Drones: Flight Experience Improves Returning Performance in Honeybee Drones


The effect of experience on the behavior of worker bees has been extensively investigated; however, few such studies have been conducted on male bees. Honeybee (Apis mellifera) males (drones), unlike the males of other social hymenopterans, return to their nest after performing a mating flight and have, therefore, an opportunity to learn from their experiences. This provides a chance to understand the significance of experience in social hymenopteran males. Here, we investigated whether experience improves the returning performance in drones (rate and time of return to the hive). We compared the returning performance of “Experienced” drones that were allowed to fly freely and thus had an opportunity to learn the position of the hive before the experiment with “Naive” drones that were not allowed to fly and therefore, had no opportunity to learn. We found that Experienced drones returned to the hive after a displacement, whereas Naive drones did not. Furthermore, time to return decreased with the age of drones. These results suggest that flight experience improves the returning performance, which should increase the possibility of mating success and overall colony fitness.

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We thank Emeritus Prof. Yasuhisa Kunimi, Dr. Madoka Nakai, and Dr. Maki Inoue, Faculty of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, for providing helpful comments and suggestions for this study.

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Correspondence to Satoshi Koyama.

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Hayashi, S., Farkhary, S.I., Takata, M. et al. Return of Drones: Flight Experience Improves Returning Performance in Honeybee Drones. J Insect Behav 30, 237–246 (2017).

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  • Honeybee
  • drone
  • social hymenoptera
  • age
  • flight experience