2.1.3. Killing adults

Adult honey bees used for research are often killed during or after experiments to allow for further examination, such as to take measurements of internal organs, to quantify parasite intensity or gene expression (e.g. Pernal and Currie, 2000; Maistrello et al., 2008; Antúnez et al., 2009), or simply to dispose of them safely. Generally, termination methods can be categorised as thermal, mechanical, or chemical; the method chosen will largely depend on the purpose for termination (Table 1).  

Table 1. Examples of methods used to kill honey bees depending on purpose of the study.

Method of termination

Termination description

Body part examined and purpose



Exposed to -20 °C in freezer

Worker ovarian development and midgut and rectum protein content

Human et al. (2007)


Exposed to -80 °C in freezer

Worker abdomen for molecular analyses of Nosema infection

Williams et al. (in prep.)


Exposed to -20°C in a freezer

Worker body viral analyses

Yañez et al. (2012)


Removed internal organs and decapitated

Queen spermatheca, gut, ovaries, haemolymph, head, eviscerated body virus levels

Chen et al. (2006)



Drone photoreceptor and glial cell intracellular potassium movement

Coles and Orkhand (1983)


Crushed head and thorax

Queen spermatheca removal for gamete- backcross mating

Gladstone et al. (1964)


Crushed thorax

Worker thorax mass

Heinrich (1979)


Crushed thorax

Worker hypopharyngeal gland and ovarian development

Pernal and Currie (2000)

Mechanical and chemical

Crushed body and immersion in RNALater®

Worker body virus analyses

Williams et al. (in prep.)

Chemical and thermal

Exposed to dry ice in a container

Worker body chemical residue analyses

Mullin et al. (2010)


Exposed to dry ice in a box

Worker gut polystyrene microparticle quantity

Naug and Gibbs (2009)


Immersed in liquid nitrogen in a container

Adult bee genetic analyses

Zayed et al. (2005)


Immersed in 95 % ethanol

Drone genetic analyses

Jaffé et al. (2009b)


Exposed to potassium cyanide in killing jar

Worker crop load

Visscher et al. (1996) Chemical killing