Honey Bee Colonies Headed by Hyperpolyandrous Queens Have Improved Brood Rearing Efficiency and Lower Infestation Rates

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Honey Bee Colonies Headed by Hyperpolyandrous Queens Have Improved Brood Rearing Efficiency and Lower Infestation Rates

Postby ExpatBeekeeper » Mon Mar 07, 2016 5:32 pm

Honey Bee Colonies Headed by Hyperpolyandrous Queens Have Improved Brood Rearing Efficiency and Lower Infestation Rates of Parasitic Varroa Mites

Abstract
A honey bee queen mates on wing with an average of 12 males and stores their sperm to produce progeny of mixed paternity. The degree of a queen’s polyandry is positively associated with measures of her colony’s fitness, and observed distributions of mating number are evolutionary optima balancing risks of mating flights against benefits to the colony. Effective mating numbers as high as 40 have been documented, begging the question of the upper bounds of this behavior that can be expected to confer colony benefit. In this study we used instrumental insemination to create three classes of queens with exaggerated range of polyandry– 15, 30, or 60 drones. Colonies headed by queens inseminated with 30 or 60 drones produced more brood per bee and had a lower proportion of samples positive for Varroa destructor mites than colonies whose queens were inseminated with 15 drones, suggesting benefits of polyandry at rates higher than those normally obtaining in nature. Our results are consistent with two hypotheses that posit conditions that reward such high expressions of polyandry: (1) a queen may mate with many males in order to promote beneficial non-additive genetic interactions among subfamilies, and (2) a queen may mate with many males in order to capture a large number of rare alleles that regulate resistance to pathogens and parasites in a breeding population. Our results are unique for identifying the highest levels of polyandry yet detected that confer colony-level benefit and for showing a benefit of polyandry in particular toward the parasitic mite V. destructor.

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