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.
Project description:Mating has profound effects on the physiology and behavior of female insects, and in honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens, these changes are permanent. Queens mate with multiple males during a brief period in their early adult lives, and shortly thereafter they initiate egg-laying. Furthermore, the pheromone profiles of mated queens differ from those of virgins, and these pheromones regulate many different aspects of worker behavior and colony organization. While it is clear that mating causes dramatic changes in queens, it is unclear if mating number has more subtle effects on queen physiology or queen-worker interactions; indeed, the effect of multiple matings on female insect physiology has not been broadly addressed. Because it is not possible to control the natural mating behavior of queens, we used instrumental insemination and compared queens inseminated with semen from either a single drone (single-drone inseminated, or SDI) or 10 drones (multi-drone inseminated, or MDI). We used observation hives to monitor attraction of workers to SDI or MDI queens in colonies, and cage studies to monitor the attraction of workers to virgin, SDI, and MDI queen mandibular gland extracts (the main source of queen pheromone). The chemical profiles of the mandibular glands of virgin, SDI, and MDI queens were characterized using GC-MS. Finally, we measured brain expression levels in SDI and MDI queens of a gene associated with phototaxis in worker honey bees (Amfor). Here, we demonstrate for the first time that insemination quantity significantly affects mandibular gland chemical profiles, queen-worker interactions, and brain gene expression. Further research will be necessary to elucidate the mechanistic bases for these effects: insemination volume, sperm and seminal protein quantity, and genetic diversity of the sperm may all be important factors contributing to this profound change in honey bee queen physiology, queen behavior, and social interactions in the colony.
Project description:Queens of social insects make all mate-choice decisions on a single day, except in honeybees whose queens can conduct mating flights for several days even when already inseminated by a number of drones. Honeybees therefore appear to have a unique, evolutionarily derived form of sexual conflict: a queen's decision to pursue risky additional mating flights is driven by later-life fitness gains from genetically more diverse worker-offspring but reduces paternity shares of the drones she already mated with. We used artificial insemination, RNA-sequencing and electroretinography to show that seminal fluid induces a decline in queen vision by perturbing the phototransduction pathway within 24-48 hr. Follow up field trials revealed that queens receiving seminal fluid flew two days earlier than sister queens inseminated with saline, and failed more often to return. These findings are consistent with seminal fluid components manipulating queen eyesight to reduce queen promiscuity across mating flights.
Project description:Queens of social insects make all mate-choice decisions on a single day, except in honeybees whose queens can conduct mating flights for several days even when already inseminated by a number of drones. Honeybees therefore appear to have a unique, evolutionarily derived form of sexual conflict: a queen’s decision to pursue risky additional mating flights is driven by later-life fitness gains from genetically more diverse worker-offspring but reduces paternity shares of the drones she already mated with. We used artificial insemination, RNA-sequencing and electroretinography to show that seminal fluid induces a decline in queen vision by perturbing the phototransduction pathway within 24-48 hours. Follow up field trials revealed that queens receiving seminal fluid flew two days earlier than sister queens inseminated with saline, and failed more often to return. These findings are consistent with seminal fluid components manipulating queen eyesight to reduce queen promiscuity across mating flights. Overall design: Two subsequent RNA-seq experiments, each with three treatment groups. Each treatment consisted of three biological replicates. Each biological replicate was a pool of three brains of honeybee queens after they were artificially inseminated with either semen, seminal fluid or mock-inseminated (first experiment), or semen, seminal fluid and Hayes saline (second experiment). RNA-seq libraries were sequenced on Illumina HiSeq 2500 (single-end 120 bp reads).
Project description:During emergency queen rearing, worker honey bees (Apis mellifera) select several otherwise worker-destined larvae to instead rear as candidates to replace their dead or failing queen. This choice is crucial as the queen is the sole reproductive in the colony and her quality is essential to its success. Because honey bee queens mate with and store sperm from multiple drones, emergency queen selection presents workers with an opportunity to increase fitness by selecting full- (0.75 relatedness), rather than half- (0.25 relatedness), sisters as new queen candidates. Through patriline analysis of colonies along with large numbers of emergency queens reared by each we affirm the purported "royal" patriline theory that, instead of competing nepotistically, workers exhibit bias towards selecting individuals from particular "royal" subfamilies during emergency queen rearing events, Further, we show that these "royal" patrilines are cryptic in honey bee colonies; occurring in such low frequency in the overall colony population that they are frequently undetected in traditional tests of queen mating number and colony composition. The identification of these cryptic "royal" subfamilies reveals that honey bee queens, already considered "hyperpolyandrous," are mating with even more males than has been previously recognized. These results alter our understanding of reproductive behavior in honey bees, raising questions about the evolutionary implications of this phenomenon.
Project description:The mandibular glands of queen honeybees produce a pheromone that modulates many aspects of worker honeybee physiology and behavior and is critical for colony social organization. The exact chemical blend produced by the queen differs between virgin and mated, laying queens. Here, we investigate the role of mating and reproductive state on queen pheromone production and worker responses. Virgin queens, naturally mated queens, and queens instrumentally inseminated with either semen or saline were collected 2 days after mating or insemination. Naturally mated queens had the most activated ovaries and the most distinct chemical profile in their mandibular glands. Instrumentally inseminated queens were intermediate between virgins and naturally mated queens for both ovary activation and chemical profiles. There were no significant differences between semen- and saline-inseminated queens. Workers were preferentially attracted to the mandibular gland extracts from queens with significantly more activated ovaries. These studies suggest that the queen pheromone blend is modulated by the reproductive status of the queens, and workers can detect these subtle differences and are more responsive to queens with higher reproductive potential. Furthermore, it appears as if insemination substance does not strongly affect physiological characteristics of honeybee queens 2 days after insemination, suggesting that the insemination process or volume is responsible for stimulating these early postmating changes in honeybee queens.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Efficient breeding programs are difficult to implement in honeybees due to their biological specificities (polyandry and haplo-diploidy) and complexity of the traits of interest, with performances being measured at the colony scale and resulting from the joint effects of tens of thousands of workers (called direct effects) and of the queen (called maternal effects). We implemented a Monte Carlo simulation program of a breeding plan designed specifically for Apis mellifera's populations to assess the impact of polyandry versus monoandry on colony performance, inbreeding level and genetic gain depending on the individual selection strategy considered, i.e. complete mass selection or within-family (maternal lines) selection. We simulated several scenarios with different parameter setups by varying initial genetic variances and correlations between direct and maternal effects, the selection strategy and the polyandry level. Selection was performed on colony phenotypes.<h4>Results</h4>All scenarios showed strong increases in direct breeding values of queens after 20 years of selection. Monoandry led to significantly higher direct than maternal genetic gains, especially when a negative correlation between direct and maternal effects was simulated. However, the relative increase in these genetic gains depended also on their initial genetic variability and on the selection strategy. When polyandry was simulated, the results were very similar with either 8 or 16 drones mated to each queen. Across scenarios, polyandrous mating resulted in equivalent or higher gains in performance than monoandrous mating, but with considerably lower inbreeding rates. Mass selection conferred a ~ 20% increase in performance compared to within-family selection, but was also accompanied by a strong increase in inbreeding levels (25 to 50% higher).<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our study is the first to compare the long-term effects of polyandrous versus monoandrous mating in honeybee breeding. The latter is an emergent strategy to improve specific traits, such as resistance to varroa, which can be difficult or expensive to phenotype. However, if used during several generations in a closed population, monoandrous mating increases the inbreeding level of queens much more than polyandrous mating, which is a strong limitation of this strategy.
Project description:Although monandry is believed to have facilitated the evolution of eusociality, many highly eusocial insects have since evolved extreme polyandry. The transition to extreme polyandry was likely driven by the benefits of within-colony genetic variance to task specialization and/or disease resistance, but the extent to which it confers secondary benefits, once evolved, is unclear. Here we investigate the consequences of extreme polyandry on the invasive potential of the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana. In honey bees and other Hymenoptera, small newly founded invasive populations must overcome the genetic constraint of their sex determination system that requires heterozygosity at a sex-determining locus to produce viable females. We find A. cerana queens in an invasive population mate with an average of 27 males (range 16-42) that would result in the founding queen/s carrying 75% of their source population's sex alleles in stored sperm. This mating frequency is similar to native-range Chinese A. cerana (mean 29 males, range 19-46). Simulations reveal that extreme polyandry reduces the risk, relative to monandry or moderate polyandry, that colonies produce a high incidence of inviable brood in populations that have experienced a founder event, that is, when sex allele diversity is low and/or allele frequencies are unequal. Thus, extreme polyandry aids the invasiveness of A. cerana in two ways: (1) by increasing the sex locus allelic richness carried to new populations with each founder, thereby increasing sex locus heterozygosity; and (2) by reducing the population variance in colony fitness following a founder event.
Project description:The remarkable diversity of ant social organization is reflected in both their life history and population kin structure. Different species demonstrate a high variation with respect to both social structure and mating strategies: from the ancestral colony type that is composed of a single queen (monogyny), singly inseminated (monoandry), to the more derived states of colonies headed by a multiply inseminated queen (polyandry), to colonies composed of multiple queens (polygyny) that are either singly or multiply inseminated. Moreover, the population structure of an ant species can range from multicoloniality to polydomy to supercoloniality, and Cataglyphis is considered to be a model genus in regard to such diversity. The present study sought to determine the social and population structure of the recently described C. israelensis species in Israel. For this purpose we employed a multidisciplinary approach, rather than the commonly used single approach that is mostly based on genetics. Our study encompassed behavior (nest insularity/openness), chemistry (composition of nestmate recognition signals and cuticular hydrocarbons), and genetics (microsatellite polymorphism). Each approach has been shown to possess both advantages and disadvantages, depending on the studied species. Our findings reveal that C. israelensis colonies are headed by a single, multiply inseminated queen and that the population structure is polydomous, with each colony comprising one main nest and several additional satellite nests. Moreover, our findings demonstrate that none of the above-noted approaches, when employed individually, is suitable or sufficient in itself for delineating population structure, thus emphasizing the importance of using multiple approaches when assessing such complex systems.
Project description:Honeybees are an excellent model system for examining how trade-offs shape reproductive timing in organisms with seasonal environments. Honeybee colonies reproduce two ways: producing swarms comprising a queen and thousands of workers or producing males (drones). There is an energetic trade-off between producing workers, which contribute to colony growth, and drones, which contribute only to reproduction. The timing of drone production therefore determines both the drones' likelihood of mating and when colonies reach sufficient size to swarm. Using a linear programming model, we ask when a colony should produce drones and swarms to maximize reproductive success. We find the optimal behavior for each colony is to produce all drones prior to swarming, an impossible solution on a population scale because queens and drones would never co-occur. Reproductive timing is therefore not solely determined by energetic trade-offs but by the game theoretic problem of coordinating the production of reproductives among colonies.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Many species of social insects have large-scale mating and dispersal flights and their populations are therefore often relatively homogenous. In contrast, dispersal on the wing appears to be uncommon in most species of the ant genus Cardiocondyla, because its males are wingless and the winged queens mate in their natal nests before dispersing on foot. Here we examine the population structure of C. venustula from South Africa. This species is of particular interest for the analysis of life history evolution in Cardiocondyla, as it occupies a phylogenetic position between tropical species with multi-queen (polygynous) colonies and fighting males and a Palearctic clade with single-queen colonies and mutually peaceful males. Males of C. venustula exhibit an intermediate strategy between lethal fighting and complete tolerance - they mostly engage in non-lethal fights and defend small territories inside their natal nests. We investigated how this reproductive behavior influences colony and population structure by analyzing samples on two geographic scales in South Africa: a small 40?×?40m2 plot and a larger area with distances up to 5?km between sampling sites in Rietvlei Nature Reserve near Pretoria. RESULTS:Colonies were found to be facultatively polygynous and queens appear to mate only with a single male. The extraordinarily high inbreeding coefficient suggests regular sib-mating. Budding by workers and young queens is the predominant mode of colony-founding and leads to high population viscosity. In addition, some queens appear to found colonies independently or through adoption into foreign nests. CONCLUSION:While C. venustula resembles tropical Cardiocondyla in queen number and mating frequency, it differs by the absence of winged disperser males. Dispersal by solitary, mated queens on foot or by short flights and their adoption by alien colonies might promote gene flow between colonies and counteract prolonged inbreeding. The abundance of suitable habitat and the high density of nests facilitate the spread of this species by budding and together with the apparent resistance against inbreeding make it a highly successful pioneer species and invader of degraded and man-made habitats.