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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Nutrition

Comparing Alternative Methods for Holding Virgin Honey Bee Queens for One Week in Mailing Cages before Mating
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Author: Gianluigi Bigio et al.

by Gianluigi Bigio, Christoph Grüter, Francis L. W. Ratnieks

In beekeeping, queen honey bees are often temporarily kept alive in cages. We determined the survival of newly-emerged virgin honey bee queens every day for seven days in an experiment that simultaneously investigated three factors: queen cage type (wooden three-hole or plastic), attendant workers (present or absent) and food type (sugar candy, honey, or both). Ten queens were tested in each of the 12 combinations. Queens were reared using standard beekeeping methods (Doolittle/grafting) and emerged from their cells into vials held in an incubator at 34C. All 12 combinations gave high survival (90 or 100%) for three days but only one method (wooden cage, with attendants, honey) gave 100% survival to day seven. Factors affecting queen survival were analysed. Across all combinations, attendant bees significantly increased survival (18% vs. 53%, p<0.001). In addition, there was an interaction between food type and cage type (p<0.001) with the honey and plastic cage combination giving reduced survival. An additional group of queens was reared and held for seven days using the best method, and then directly introduced using smoke into queenless nucleus colonies that had been dequeened five days previously. Acceptance was high (80%, 8/10) showing that this combination is also suitable for preparing queens for introduction into colonies. Having a simple method for keeping newly-emerged virgin queens alive in cages for one week and acceptable for introduction into queenless colonies will be useful in honey bee breeding. In particular, it facilitates the screening of many queens for genetic or phenotypic characteristics when only a small proportion meets the desired criteria. These can then be introduced into queenless hives for natural mating or insemination, both of which take place when queens are one week old.
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