1 Department of Agroecology - Entomology and Plant Pathology, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University2 Hellenic Institute of Apiculture3 Research Institute of Horticulture, Apiculture Division4 Slovak University of Agriculture5 Agricultural Research Council, Honey bee and Silkworm Research Unit6 Croatian Agricultural Agency7 The University of Applied Sciences "Marko Marulic" in Knin8 Agricultural Institute of Slovenia9 University of Plovdiv10 Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb11 Institute of Apiculture12 Faculty of Agriculture, University of Belgrade13 Agricultural University, Plovdiv14 Danish Beekeepers Association15 Apiculture Division, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn16 Department of Agroecology - Entomology and Plant Pathology, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
The term “quality” in relation to queens and drones refers to certain quantitative physical and / or behavioural characters. It is generally believed that a high quality queen should have the following physical characteristics: high live weight; high number of ovarioles; large size of spermatheca; high number of spermatozoa in spermatheca; and be free from diseases and pests. It is, however, also known that the performance of a honey bee colony is the result of its queen’s function as well as of that of the drones that mated with her. These two approaches are often considered together and give a general picture of the queen production technique and selection. Here we describe the most common and well known anatomical, physiological, behavioural and performance characters related to the queens, as measured in different European countries: the live weight of the virgin queen (Bulgaria); the live weight of the laying queen (Bulgaria, Italy); the diameter and volume of spermatheca (Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia); the number of ovarioles (Greece, Italy, Slovenia); the weight of ovaries (Slovenia); the number of spermatozoa in spermatheca (Italy, Poland, Slovenia); the brood pattern (Bulgaria, Greece); the egg laying ability / fecundity (Bulgaria); the brood production (Croatia, Serbia); the colony population development (Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia); the honey production (Croatia, Denmark, Serbia, Slovakia); the hygienic behaviour (Croatia, Denmark, Serbia, Slovakia); the defence behaviour (Croatia); the calmness / sitting on the comb (Croatia, Denmark); and swarming (Croatia, Denmark). The data presented fit well with the findings of the same characters in the literature, and in general they support the argument for the term “quality characters”. Especially for the weight of the queen, the number of ovarioles, the volume of the spermatheca and the number of spermatozoa, data per country proved its own accuracy by repetition through the years. We also report that when instrumentally inseminated queens are kept under mass production conditions (in small cages in queen banks and with low number of attendants) they can transfer the semen to their spermatheca and clear their oviducts more efficiently when they have been inseminated with small amounts of semen in two or three sequences (but not four), compared to those inseminated with the same amount of semen at once (Poland). Furthermore, we had an inside view of the sanitary conditions of the colony: a. through the health status of the queen (nosema plus virus analysis) (Slovenia); and b. evaluating the nosema load of worker bees (Denmark) and of the queens (Greece). This is the first step to summarize this type of diverse data for such an important issue. The knowledge acquired can be used to fill in the existing gaps in the breeding or queen evaluation systems of each country in order to facilitate standardization of methodology for comparable results.
Journal of Apicultural Research and Bee World, 2014, Vol 53, Issue 3, p. 337-363