Free Access
Volume 36, Number 2, April-June 2005
the neglected gender - males in bees
Page(s) 255 - 277
Published online 01 June 2005
Apidologie 36 (2005) 255-277
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2005015

Differences in drone and worker physiology in honeybees (Apis mellifera)

Norbert Hrassnigg and Karl Crailsheim

Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, A8010 Graz, Austria

(Received 22 December 2004 - revised 19 January 2005 - accepted 20 January 2005; Published online: 1 June 2005)

Abstract - Drones and workers have completely different roles in a honeybee colony. This is reflected in many physiological, morphological and behavioural differences. Our overview mainly focuses on aspects of diet and metabolism in larvae and adults, and on the physiology of digestion. As larvae, drones have different protein and sugar requirements than workers, and in each life stage drones and workers differ in body composition (percentages of glycogen, lipids and proteins). Like queens, drones as adults are nourished by worker-prepared food, and compared to workers their ability to digest is reduced. Mature drones fly usually only under optimal weather conditions. Their flight metabolism and resting metabolism also differ from those of workers. We discuss these differences as adaptations to the different functions of the two sexes within the colony as a superorganism.

Key words: nutrition / digestion / enzymes / energy metabolism / body reserves

Corresponding author: Norbert Hrassnigg

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2005