This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.
Multiple Mating Mating Behaviour Mating Isolation Evolution of Multiple Mating
Mating Frequency in Honey Bees…
Another Inbreeding Compensation
and variance with race
Early writings about honeybee mating were often made by clergy of religious organisations, who wished to believe in the notion of one male to one queen and thus put forward that idea as a matter of doctrine rather than established fact. Anatomical dissection supported this notion as, the spermatheca has a similar volume to the amount of semen produced by a single drone (around 1 ?litre).
It is only in more recent years that we have been able to understand the natural mating process of honey bees and variance with race, in more detail. We now know that the semen from each mating is delivered into the median oviduct and that several deliveries (about 5 to 10) of semen take place in each mating flight. By some process, as yet not fully understood, a portion of each drone’s semen is transferred to the spermatheca, with the excess being expelled. The process of migration of sperm to the spermatheca usually takes place overnight with mating flights occurring on successive days (weather permitting) until the required complement of semen has been accrued.
The mating Frequency (degree of multiple mating or polyandry) is always high in honeybees, but varies between the different subspecies of Apis mellifera, with Apis Mellifera Larmarckii having the lowest mean observed numbers of mating at 5.0 and Apis Mellifera Capensis the highest at 34.0 (Franck et al. 2000). The dark European Honey bee (black honey bee) Apis mellifera mellifera has intermediate mating frequencies averaging out at 16.5 (Estoup et al. 1994; Kryger and Moritz 1997) individual cases in African honey bees have been recorded at up to seventy drones being mated to one queen.
I wish to acknowledge Francis Ratnieks and other members of the Laboratory for Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at Sheffield University as the sources of some of the information on this page.