Free access
Volume 38, Number 6, November-December 2007
Page(s) 606 - 611
Published online 19 February 2008
Apidologie 38 (2007) 606-611
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2007060

Mating flight duration of Apis mellifera queens: As short as possible, as long as necessary

Nikolaus Koeniger and Gudrun Koeniger

Institut für Bienenkunde (Polytechnische Gesellschaft) an der J.W.Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Karl-von-Frisch-Weg 2, 61440 Oberursel, Germany

(Received 11 July 2007 - Revised 19 November 2007 - Accepted 20 November 2007 - Published online 19 February 2008)

Abstract - Polyandry in queen honey bees (Apis mellifera) prolongs the duration of nuptial flights which increases costs and risks. Under conditions of limited drone numbers the hypothesis was tested whether or not there is a threshold for successful mating during mating flight. In 29 queens we found a significant negative correlation between mating flight duration and number of spermatozoa in the spermatheca (Pearson r = -0.38, P = 0.04). This negative correlation supports the idea that queens continuously get information on her mating success during flight and return to the colony as soon as they have met a sufficient number of drones. In case of normal availability of drones queens fly from 10 to 30 minutes, so we compared 2 groups of queens (flight duration less than 30 versus more than 30 minutes). Sperm numbers differed significantly between the two groups (3.0 $\pm$ 0.77 and 1.1 $\pm$ 1.04 million, Wilcoxon, P < 0.001). These results further indicate that queens monitor mating success during flight.

Key words: mating success / nuptial flights / flight duration / sperm numbers / behavioral response

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2007