No intracolonial nepotism during colony fissioning in honey bees. Academic Article uri icon


  • Most species of social insects have singly mated queens, but in some species each queen mates with numerous males to create a colony whose workers belong to multiple patrilines. This colony genetic structure creates a potential for intracolonial nepotism. One context with great potential for such nepotism arises in species, like honey bees, whose colonies reproduce by fissioning. During fissioning, workers might nepotistically choose between serving a young (sister) queen or the old (mother) queen, preferring the former if she is a full-sister but the latter if the young queen is only a half-sister. We examined three honeybee colonies that swarmed, and performed paternity analyses on the young (immature) queens and samples of workers who either stayed with the young queens in the nest or left with the mother queen in the swarm. For each colony, we checked whether patrilines represented by immature queens had higher proportions of staying workers than patrilines not represented by immature queens. We found no evidence of this. The absence of intracolonial nepotism during colony fissioning could be because the workers cannot discriminate between full-sister and half-sister queens when they are immature, or because the costs of behaving nepotistically outweigh the benefits.

published proceedings

  • Proc Biol Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Rangel, J., Mattila, H. R., & Seeley, T. D.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Rangel, Juliana||Mattila, Heather R||Seeley, Thomas D

publication date

  • November 2009