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Sperm usage in honey bees

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Haberl, M., & Tautz, D. (1998). Sperm usage in honey bees. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 42(4), 247-255. doi:10.1007/s002650050436.

Sperm usage was investigated in a naturally mated honey bee queen. We collected worker progeny arising from eggs that were laid sequentially during three sampling periods. Paternity was determined by analysis of three polymorphic microsatellite loci, leading to the conclusion that the queen had mated with seven males. Direct analysis of the sperm from the spermatheca revealed no evidence that sperm from additional males was present inside the spermatheca. Frequencies of different subfamilies differed significantly and ranged from 3.8% to 27.3%. In the short term, the frequencies of subfamilies among the eggs laid did not change over time. The frequency of eggs of a particular subfamily was statistically independent of the previous egg's subfamily. Thus, there is no evidence for non-random fine-scale sperm usage, and we estimate the effect of sperm clumping to be less than 6%. We conclude that the sperm is mixed completely inside the queen's spermatheca. Our results suggest that taking brood samples from comb cells next to each other is a statistically correct way of independent sampling of subfamilies at a given time in honey bee colonies. Furthermore, ally bias in subfamily frequencies in offspring queens due to sperm usage can be excluded. However, the analyses of progeny samples taken 12 months apart do not allow us to exclude moderate fluctuations of subfamily frequencies in the long-term.