Killing and replacing queen-laid eggs: low cost of worker policing in the honey bee

Kärcher, Martin H and Ratnieks, Francis L W (2014) Killing and replacing queen-laid eggs: low cost of worker policing in the honey bee. American Naturalist, 184 (1). pp. 110-118. ISSN 0003-0147

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Worker honeybees, Apis mellifera, police each other’s reproduction by killing worker-laid eggs. Previous experiments demonstrated that worker policing is effective, killing most (∼98%) worker-laid eggs. However, many queen-laid eggs were also killed (∼50%) suggesting that effective policing may have high costs. In these previous experiments, eggs were transferred using forceps into test cells, mostly into unrelated discriminator colonies. We measured both the survival of unmanipulated queen-laid eggs and the proportion of removal errors that were rectified by the queen laying a new egg. Across 2 days of the 3-day egg stage, only 9.6% of the queen-laid eggs in drone cells and 4.1% in worker cells were removed in error. When queen-laid eggs were removed from cells, 85% from drone cells and 61% from worker cells were replaced within 3 days. Worker policing in the honeybee has a high benefit to policing workers because workers are more related to the queen’s sons (brothers, r = 0.25) than sister workers’ sons (0.15). This study shows that worker policing also has a low cost in terms of the killing of queen-laid eggs, as only a small proportion of queen-laid eggs are killed, most of which are rapidly replaced.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology
Depositing User: Tom Gittoes
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2015 07:54
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 21:20

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