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Assessing the Mating ‘Health’ of Commercial Honey Bee Queens

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Honey bee queens mate with multiple males, which increases the total genetic diversity within colonies and has been shown to confer numerous benefits for colony health and productivity. Recent surveys of beekeepers have suggested that ‘poor queens’ are a top management concern, thus investigating the reproductive quality and mating success of commercially produced honey bee queens is warranted. We purchased 80 commercially produced queens from large queen breeders in California and measured them for their physical size (fresh weigh and thorax width), insemination success (stored sperm counts and sperm viability), and mating number (determined by patriline genotyping of worker offspring). We found that queens had an average of 4.37 ± 1.446 million stored sperm in their spermathecae with an average viability of 83.7 ± 13.33%. We also found that the tested queens had mated with a high number of drones (average effective paternity frequency: 17.0 ± 8.98). Queen “quality” significantly varied among commercial sources for physical characters but not for mating characters. These findings suggest that it may be more effective to improve overall queen reproductive potential by culling lower-quality queens rather than systematically altering current queen production practices.

Keywords: honey bee; insemination success; mating number; queen

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC11276

Publication date: February 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • 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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