Mating and How Reproductive Isolation Is Achieved

Honey bees mate in flight; the process has been studied in detail in A. mellifera, and involves three stages. A queen flies out when only a few days old, and drones that are flying in the area, attracted by the pheromones she produces, follow her. If a drone succeeds in clasping the queen with his legs,

FIGURE 1 Worker honey bees (Apis mellifera) on honeycomb. (Photograph courtesy of P. Kirk Visscher.)

his endophallus is everted and mating occurs. When they separate, part of his genitalia remains in the queen, and he falls away and dies. She may mate more than once (usually on the same flight), and the semen she receives is stored in her spermatheca for use throughout her egg-laying life.

The main component of the pheromone attracting drones to the queen seems to be the same for all Apis species (9-oxo-trans-decenoic acid). In an area with more than one species, reproductive isolation can be achieved if the drones of different species fly at different times of day.

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