Policing of adult honey bees with activated ovaries is error prone

J. R. Dampney, A. B. Barron, B. P. Oldroyd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Individually-marked day-old anarchistic (from a line where workers lay eggs at high frequency) and wild-type worker honey bees (Apis mellifera) were introduced to queenless sections of anarchistic or wild-type host colonies housed in observation hives. After 14 days, some introduced workers had activated ovaries, and we then removed the screens separating the queenless from the queenright sections of the observation hives. We then oberved all instances of aggression against marked workers for 3 hours. The colonies were then killed and all the marked bees retrieved and scored for ovary activation. About 10-40% of workers had activated ovaries. In 3 of 6 colonies, wild-type workers were attacked more often if they had activated ovaries than workers without activated ovaries. Anarchistic workers were more likely to be attacked if they had activated ovaries in one anarchistic host colony only, but in one wild-type host they were more likely to be attacked if they had inactive ovaries. In all colonies there was no significant difference in attack rates between anarchistic and wild-type workers with activated ovaries. This indicates that, like wild-type workers, anarchistic workers are unable to mask their ovary activation from other workers. This study supports the hypothesis some policing occurs via attacks on individuals with activated ovaries, but that this system is much less accurate nd acute than the policing system based on egg eating.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-274
Number of pages5
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • anarchy
  • laying workers
  • policing


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