Worker-Bee Crowding Affects Brood Production, Honey Production, and Longevity of Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

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This study measured the effects of hive volume on the productivity and growth of colonies of honey bees, Apis mellifera L., in Baton Rouge, LA. In a winter experiment, populations of 5,000, 10,000, and 15,000 bees were installed in hives to produce population densities of 150 or 550 bees per liter of hive volume (3 by 2 factorial, n = 60). More crowded bees consumed less honey (6.8 ± 1.9 mg per bee/d [mean SD] versus 12.2 ± 2.6 mg per bee/d) but produced less brood (0.34 ± 0.20 versus 0.72 -±0.31 cells per bee) and had a shorter life span than less crowded colonies. In spring, summer, and autumn, experiments were conducted with initial populations of 9,600 bees per colony. At 100, 200, 300, and 500 bees per liter (n = 32), more crowded bees produced more honey. Average honey production was -70, -17, +28, and +67 g/d for the least to most crowded bees, respectively. More crowded bees produced less brood, but the difference was less marked than in winter. A final experiment measured the effects of adding hive space that did not contain comb (n = 27). Of three treatments, colonies with five combs in a 25-liter hive produced the most honey (105 g/d), and colonies with additional space and combs (10 combs in a 47-liter hive) produced the least (29 g/d). Colonies with combless space (five combs in a 47-liter hive) were intermediate (62 g/d). The treatment with combless space produced more brood than the more crowded treatment but less than the treatment with 10 combs.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 1993

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  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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