Free access
Volume 36, Number 3, July-September 2005
Page(s) 461 - 474
Published online 09 August 2005
Apidologie 36 (2005) 461-474
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2005033

Three mechanisms of queen elimination in swarming honey bee colonies

David C. Gilley and David R. Tarpy

Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

(Received 8 September 2004 - Revised 17 December 2004 - Accepted 31 December 2004; Published online: 9 August 2005 )

Abstract - Queen elimination in honey bee colonies is a process by which all but one of the unmated queens produced during colony fission ("swarming") are eliminated from the parental nest. Queens are eliminated by three mechanisms: queen-queen duels, pre-emergence destruction, and departure with a secondary swarm. Here we describe each of these mechanisms of elimination and address important questions about queen elimination using detailed records of events from 13 observation-hive colonies undergoing queen elimination. We make the following conclusions. (1) The events during queen elimination occur in two distinct patterns: queen duels with secondary swarm departures, and no queen duels with pre-emergence destruction of all of the first-emerging queen's rivals. (2) The timing of secondary swarm departure is related to the events of queen elimination. (3) Queen duels are a common mechanism of elimination. (4) Workers play a significant but non-lethal role in queen elimination. (5) Queen elimination in European and African honey bee colonies is similar but the patterns of events may differ.

Key words: Swarming / queen elimination / queen duel / queen fight / pre-emergence destruction

Corresponding author: David C. Gilley

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2005