Anarchy in the UK: Detailed genetic analysis of worker reproduction in a naturally occurring British anarchistic honeybee, Apis mellifera, colony using DNA microsatellites.

Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects, Sheffield Molecular Genetics Facility, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.
Molecular Ecology (Impact Factor: 5.84). 10/2002; 11(9):1795-803. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-294X.2000.01569.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Anarchistic behaviour is a very rare phenotype of honeybee colonies. In an anarchistic colony, many workers' sons are reared in the presence of the queen. Anarchy has previously been described in only two Australian colonies. Here we report on a first detailed genetic analysis of a British anarchistic colony. Male pupae were present in great abundance above the queen excluder, which was clearly indicative of extensive worker reproduction and is the hallmark of anarchy. Seventeen microsatellite loci were used to analyse these male pupae, allowing us to address whether all the males were indeed workers' sons, and how many worker patrilines and individual workers produced them. In the sample, 95 of 96 of the males were definitely workers' sons. Given that approximately 1% of workers' sons were genetically indistinguishable from queen's sons, this suggests that workers do not move any queen-laid eggs between the part of the colony where the queen is present to the area above the queen excluder which the queen cannot enter. The colony had 16 patrilines, with an effective number of patrilines of 9.85. The 75 males that could be assigned with certainty to a patriline came from 7 patrilines, with an effective number of 4.21. They were the offspring of at least 19 workers. This is in contrast to the two previously studied Australian naturally occurring anarchist colonies, in which most of the workers' sons were offspring of one patriline. The high number of patrilines producing males leads to a low mean relatedness between laying workers and males of the colony. We discuss the importance of studying such colonies in the understanding of worker policing and its evolution.

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