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For honey bee queens, multiple mating makes a difference
Date:10/8/2007

The success of the reign of a honey bee queen appears to be determined to a large degree by the number of times she mates with drone bees.

That is what research by scientists in the Department of Entomology and W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology at North Carolina State University suggests. Dr. Freddie-Jeanne Richard, a post-doctoral research associate; Dr. David Tarpy, assistant professor and North Carolina Cooperative Extension apiculturist; and Dr. Christina Grozinger, assistant professor of insect genomics, found that the number of times a honey bee queen mates is a key factor in determining how attractive the queen is to the worker bees of a hive. Their research was published Oct. 3 in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE.

A honey bee queen mates early in her life, Tarpy explained, but usually with multiple partners, the drones of another bee colony. Richard, Tarpy, and Grozinger found that the number of partners appears to be a key factor in making the queen attractive to the worker bees of a colony the more partners, the more attractive the queen is and the longer her reign is likely to be.

The scientists also conducted experiments that suggest that the number of times a queen mates is a factor in altering the composition of a pheromone, or chemical signal, the queen produces. It is the composition of this pheromone that appears to attract the worker bees of a hive.

A honey bee colony consists of a single queen and several thousand sterile worker bees. Throughout most of her life, the queens job is to lay eggs. However, early in a queens life, she makes several mating flights. On these flights, she mates -- in midair -- with anywhere from one to more than 40 drones. The average number of drones with which a queen mates is 12. The queen stores the semen from her mating flights for the remainder of her life, two to three years for a long-lived queen.

However, some queens are not so long-lived. Th
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Contact: Dr. Freddie-Jeanne Richard
fjrichard@ncsu.edu
919-513-7857
Public Library of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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