Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Egg-size plasticity in Apis mellifera: honey bee queens alter egg size in response to both genetic and environmental factors

Citation

Amiri, Esmaeil et al. (2020), Egg-size plasticity in Apis mellifera: honey bee queens alter egg size in response to both genetic and environmental factors, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.0gb5mkkxh

Abstract

Social evolution has led to distinct life-history patterns in social insects, but many colony-level and individual traits, such as egg size, are not sufficiently understood. Thus, a series of experiments was performed to study the effects of genotypes, colony size, and colony nutrition on variation in egg size produced by honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens. Queens from different genetic stocks produced significantly different egg sizes under similar environmental conditions, indicating standing genetic variation for egg size that allows for adaptive evolutionary change. Further investigations revealed that eggs produced by queens in large colonies were consistently smaller than eggs produced in small colonies, and queens dynamically adjusted egg size in relation to colony size. Similarly, queens increased egg size in response to food deprivation. These results could not be solely explained by different numbers of eggs produced in the different circumstances but instead seem to reflect an active adjustment of resource allocation by the queen in response to colony conditions. As a result, larger eggs experienced higher subsequent survival than smaller eggs, suggesting that honey bee queens might increase egg size under unfavorable conditions to enhance brood survival, and to minimize costly brood care of eggs that fail to successfully develop, and thus conserve energy at the colony level. The extensive plasticity and genetic variation of egg size in honey bees has important implications for understanding life history evolution in a social context and implies this neglected life history stage in honey bees may have trans-generational effects.