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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Three Mechanisms of Queen Elimination in Swarming Honey Bee Colonies

Authors
item Gilley, David
item Tarpy, David - UNIV. NORTH CAROLINA

Submitted to: Apidologie
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 13, 2005
Publication Date: August 9, 2005
Citation: Gilley, D. C., Tarpy, D. R. Three mechanisms of queen elimination in swarming honey bee colonies. Apidologie 2005. 36:461-474.

Interpretive Summary: Reproductive fission, or "swarming", is a process whereby a social insect colony splits into one or more subunits, each containing at least one queen and a fraction of the colony's workers. In honey bees, reproductive fission occurs in two stages. The first stage, queen rearing, consists of events that occur in a relatively straightforward sequence and is well described. The second stage, queen elimination, consists of complex events that occur in variable sequences and is not well understood. Here we review what is known about the events that occur within honey bee colonies during both stages of reproductive fission, with an emphasis on the queen elimination stage. We synthesize data from the few existing studies that describe the events within observation hive colonies undergoing reproductive fission and use these data to describe the sequence of events within 13 colonies and trace the fate of the 83 queens reared by these colonies. We use the results of our synthesis to correct some common misunderstandings about the events of reproductive colony fission in honey bee colones; we show that (1) workers do not kill virgin queens during queen duels, (2) "spraying" does not repel workers during queen duels, and (3) queen duels do play a significant role in determining the outcome of queen elimination. We conclude by suggesting priorities for future research.

Technical Abstract: Reproductive fission, or "swarming", is a process whereby a social insect colony splits into one or more subunits, each containing at least one queen and a fraction of the colony's workers. In honey bees, reproductive fission occurs in two stages. The first stage, queen rearing, consists of events that occur in a relatively straightforward sequence and is well described. The second stage, queen elinination, consists of complex events that occur in variable sequences and is not well understood. Here we review what is known about the events that occur within honey bee colonies during both stages of reproductive fission, with an emphasis on the queen elimination stage. We synthesize data from the few existing studies that describe the events within observation hive colonies undergoing reproductive fission and use these data to describe the sequence of events within 13 colonies and trace the fate of the 83 queens reared by these colonies. We use the results of our synthesis to correct some common misunderstandings about the events of reproductive colony fission in honey bee colonies; we show that (1) workers do not kill virgin queens during queen duels, (2) "spraying" does not repel workers during queen duels, and (3) queen duels do play a significant role in determining the outcome of queen elimination. We conclude by suggesting priorities for future research.

Last Modified: 4/19/2014
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