4.5. Creating multiple queen colonies

Recently, a method to create multiple queen honey bee colonies composed of young workers was created by clipping part of the mandibles of queens (Figs. 29 and 30). The crucial part of the method is the clipping of part of their mandibles. This operation does not significantly affect the general activity and mandibular gland profile of queens (Dietemann et al., 2008; Zheng et al., 2012). Queens with their mandibles ablated refrain from lethal fighting, resulting in cohabitation of queens (Dietemann et al., 2008).

This procedure is described in section 4.5.1. In the following sections (4.5.2, 4.5.3.), the preparation and maintenance of multiple queen colonies is described. Multiple queen honey bee colonies (Fig. 31) are of significance both in beekeeping and research. In some areas of China, these colonies are used in beekeeping as supporting colonies to: (1) build up populous colonies faster in spring prior to major nectar flows and to maintain the population year-round when needed; (2) provide the 1-day-old larvae necessary for grafting larvae in queen cells for royal jelly production and (3) provide replacement queens when necessary. Furthermore, they can contribute to package bee production by providing large numbers of workers. In research, they are helpful to deepen our understanding of basic questions on the evolution of sociality, such as division of reproductive labour and the evolution of polygyny (Dietemann et al., 2009b).

Fig. 29. Clipping mandibles of a queen. The queen’s thorax is held between the thumb, index finger and middle finger of one hand while one third to half of mandibles on both sides is cut with small scissors held in the other hand. Photo: W Wei.

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Fig. 30. (A) A queen with intact mandibles; (B) A queen with mandibles clipped. Photo: H-Q Zheng.

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Fig. 31. Five queens on one side of a comb. Photo: W Wei.

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4.5.3. Steps for maintenance of an artificially established multiple-queen social organisation