Characters that differ between diploid and haploid honey bee (Apis mellifera) drones

Genet Mol Res. 2005 Dec 30;4(4):624-41.


Diploid males have long been considered a curiosity contradictory to the haplo-diploid mode of sex determination in the Hymenoptera. In Apis mellifera, 'false' diploid male larvae are eliminated by worker cannibalism immediately after hatching. A 'cannibalism substance' produced by diploid drone larvae to induce worker-assisted suicide has been hypothesized, but it has never been detected. Diploid drones are only removed some hours after hatching. Older larvae are evidently not regarded as 'false males' and instead are regularly nursed by the brood-attending worker bees. As the pheromonal cues presumably are located on the surface of newly hatched bee larvae, we extracted the cuticular secretions and analyzed their chemical composition by gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analyses. Larvae were sexed and then reared in vitro for up to three days. The GC-MS pattern that was obtained, with alkanes as the major compounds, was compared between diploid and haploid drone larvae. We also examined some physical parameters of adult drones. There was no difference between diploid and haploid males in their weight at the day of emergence. The diploid adult drones had fewer wing hooks and smaller testes. The sperm DNA content was 0.30 and 0.15 pg per nucleus, giving an exact 2:1 ratio for the gametocytes of diploid and haploid drones, respectively. Vitellogenin was found in the hemolymph of both types of imaginal drones at 5 to 6 days, with a significantly lower titer in the diploids.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / genetics*
  • DNA / analysis*
  • Diploidy*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Haploidy*
  • Hemolymph / chemistry
  • Larva
  • Male
  • Sex Differentiation / genetics*
  • Spermatozoa / chemistry*
  • Vitellogenins / blood


  • Vitellogenins
  • DNA