Free access
Volume 34, Number 4, July-August 2003
Page(s) 353 - 358
Apidologie 34 (2003) 353-358
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2003031

Comparison of flight design of Asian honeybee drones

Sarah E. Radloffa, H. Randall Hepburnb and Gudrun Koenigerc

a  Department of Statistics, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
b  Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
c  Institut für Bienenkunde, Oberursel, Germany

(Received 30 May 2002; revised 30 September 2002; accepted 12 December 2002)

The excess power index (integrating body dry mass, thorax-to-body dry mass and wing surface area) was compared in drones of seven Asian Apis species. There are two statistically distinct groups of drones: drones of the dwarf honeybees form one class, all other Asian species belong to the second. Drones of dwarf honeybees have a 36% ergonomic advantage in power availability and 20% advantage in available excess power over all other drones. Comparisons of flight dimensions between conspecific workers and drones show a highly statistically significant sexual dimorphism for flight. Although drones of all seven tested species are always bigger than their workers their excess power index is some 15% better. It is suggested that prowess of flight in drones is driven by the need to compete and mate with queens flying high in the air while worker bees forage nectar and pollen on flowers.

Key words: body dry mass / wing surface / excess power / Apis drones / sexual dimorphism

Correspondence and reprints: Sarah E. Radloff

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2003