Effects of Temperature During Package Transportation on Queen Establishment and Survival in Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

Withrow, James M; Pettis, Jeffery S.; Tarpy, David R (2019). Effects of Temperature During Package Transportation on Queen Establishment and Survival in Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of economic entomology, 112(3), pp. 1043-1049. Entomological Society of America 10.1093/jee/toz003

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Honey bee (Apis mellifera) (Linnaeus) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) queens, the reproductive female caste, are crucial for colony success, and many management problems that beekeepers face are related to their diminished reproductive quality and premature failure. Previous research has suggested that temperature extremes may affect the viability of stored sperm in queens' spermathecae, thus the abiotic conditions of queens during transport may be germane to these problems. We recorded the temperatures experienced by queens during 2 yr of package transportation and tracked the newly installed colonies through establishment and buildup. During this critical 6-8 wk period, we observed typically high rates of queen failure (~25%) but found no indication that these postinstallation queen events were driven by temperature-related damage to stored sperm (an essential component of queen quality) incurred during transportation. We also found no indication of significant hot or cold zones across the truckloads of packages that would suggest a problem in how packages are insulated during transportation. However, we did observe significantly higher temperatures (31.2 vs. 29.9°C) and lower temperature variance (8.8 vs. 12.2) in queens that ultimately failed during the observation period, indicating that workers may respond differently to these queens in a way that manifests as more insulating clusters around queen cages. If so, then the collective process by which workers accept or reject a foreign queen may already be detectable even if it does not ultimately conclude until some weeks later. Nevertheless, it remains unclear why large numbers of otherwise high-quality queens are failing in newly installed packages.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Institute of Bee Health

UniBE Contributor:

Pettis, Jeffery Stuart


500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture




Entomological Society of America




Anna Papach

Date Deposited:

31 Mar 2020 12:18

Last Modified:

31 Mar 2020 12:18

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:




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