Free Access
Volume 36, Number 2, April-June 2005
the neglected gender - males in bees
Page(s) 145 - 156
Published online 01 June 2005
Apidologie 36 (2005) 145-156
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2005007

Male mating behaviour and mating systems of bees: an overview

Robert John Paxton

School of Biology and Biochemistry, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK

(Received 9 November 2004 - Accepted 9 December 2004; Published online: 1 June 2005)

Abstract - Considerable interspecific diversity exists among bees in the rendezvous sites where males search for females and in the behaviours employed by males in their efforts to secure matings. I present an evolutionary framework in which to interpret this variation, and highlight the importance for the framework of (i) the distribution of receptive (typically immediate post-emergence) females, which ordinarily translates into the distribution of nests, and (ii) the density of competing males. Other than the highly polyandrous honey bees (Apis), most female bees are thought to be monandrous, though genetic data with which to support this view are generally lacking. Given the opportunity, male bees are typically polygamous. I highlight intraspecific diversity in rendezvous site, male behaviour and mating system, which is in part predicted from the conceptual framework. Finally, I suggest that inbreeding may be far more widespread among bees than has hitherto been considered the case.

Key words: Apoidea / rendezvous site / scramble competition / territoriality / inbreeding

Corresponding author: Robert John Paxton

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2005