Free Access
Volume 35, Number 1, January-February 2004
Page(s) 83 - 88
Apidologie 35 (2004) 83-88
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2003067

Measuring the cost of worker reproduction in honeybees: work tempo in an "anarchic" line

Jonathan R. Dampney, Andrew B. Barron and Benjamin P. Oldroyd

School of Biological Sciences A12, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
(Received 17 April 2002; revised 1st May 2003; accepted 21 July 2003)

Worker reproduction is extremely rare in queen-right honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies, despite the fact that workers are capable of laying eggs and can potentially increase their direct fitness by doing so. Factors that tip selective forces in favour of functional worker sterility may be related to colony-level costs of worker reproduction. We examined one possible cost by comparing work rates of `anarchist' (a selected line showing high rates of worker reproduction) and wild-type honey bees fostered into anarchic and wild-type host colonies. We observed a lower work rate among anarchist workers compared to wild-type workers. The difference was small but significant and likely contributes to the reduced viability of anarchic colonies. This colony-level cost of anarchistic behaviour counterbalances the increased personal fitness of anarchist bees and partly explains the extreme rarity of anarchic honey bee colonies.

Key words: Apis mellifera / anarchy / worker reproduction / policing / worker sterility

Correspondence and reprints: Benjamin P. Oldroyd

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004