Genotypic differences in brood rearing in honey bee colonies: context-specific?

Gene E. Robinson, Robert E. Page, Naomi Arensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Three experiments were performed to determine whether brood care in honey bee colonies is influenced by colony genetic structure and by social context. In experiment 1, there were significant genotypic biases in the relative likelihood of rearing queens or workers, based on observations of individually labeled workers of known age belonging to two visually distinguishable subfamilies. In experiment 2, no genotypic biases in the relative likelihood of rearing drones or workers was detected, in the same colonies that were used in experiment 1. In experiment 3, there again were significant genotypic differences in the likelihood of rearing queens or workers, based on electrophoretic analyses of workers from a set of colonies with allozyme subfamily markers. There also was an overall significant trend for colonies to show greater subfamily differences in queen rearing when the queens were sisters (half- and super-sisters) rather than unrelated, but these differences were not consistent from trial to trial for some colonies. Results of experiments 1 and 3 demonstrate genotypic differences in queen rearing, which has been reported previously based on more limited behavioral observations. Results from all three experiments suggest that genotypic differences in brood care are influenced by social context and may be more pronounced when workers have a theoretical opportunity to practice nepotism. Finally, we failed to detect persistent interindividual differences in bees from either subfamily in the tendency to rear queen brood, using two different statistical tests. This indicates that the probability of queen rearing was influenced by genotypic differences but not by the effect of prior queen-rearing experience. These results suggest that subfamilies within a colony can specialize on a particular task, such as queen rearing, without individual workers performing that task for extended periods of time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1994


  • Apis mellifera
  • Division of labor
  • Genetics
  • Nepotism
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Genotypic differences in brood rearing in honey bee colonies: context-specific?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this