Effects of worker genotypic diversity on honey bee colony development and behavior (Apis mellifera L.)

Robert E. Page, Gene E. Robinson, M. Kim Fondrk, Medhat E. Nasr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


There have been numerous reports of genetic influences on division of labor in honey bee colonies, but the effects of worker genotypic diversity on colony behavior are unclear. We analyzed the effects of worker genotypic diversity on the phenotypes of honey bee colonies during a critical phase of colony development, the "nest initiation" phase. Five groups of colonies were studied (n = 5-11 per group); four groups had relatively low genotypic diversity compared to the fifth group. Colonies were derived from queens that were instrumentally inseminated with the semen of four different drones according to one of the following mating schemes: group A, 4 A-source drones; group B, 4 B-source drones; group C, 4 C-source drones; group D, 4 D-source drones; and group E, 1 drone of each of the A-D drone sources. There were significant differences between colonies in groups A-D for 8 out of 19 colony traits. Because the queens in all of these colonies were super sisters, the observed differences between groups were primarily a consequence of differences in worker genotypes. There were very few differences (2 out of 19 traits) between colonies with high worker genotypic diversity (group E) and those with low diversity (groups A-D combined). This is because colonies with greater diversity tended to have phenotypes that were average relative to colonies with low genotypic diversity. We hypothesize that the averaging effect of genotypic variability on colony phenotypes may have selective advantages, making colonies less likely to "fail" because of inappropriate colony responses to changing environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-396
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 1995


  • Behavioral genetics
  • Colony fitness
  • Genotypic diversity
  • Polyandry
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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