Rearing Drones in Queen Cells of Apis mellifera Honey Bees

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We investigated the rearing of drone larvae grafted in queen cells. From the 1200 drone larvae that were grafted during spring and autumn, 875 were accepted (72.9%) and reared as queens. Drone larvae in false queen cells received royal jelly of the same composition and of the same amounts as queen larvae. Workers capped the queen cells as if they were drones, 9-10 days after the egg laying. Out of 60 accepted false queen cells, 21 (35%) were capped. The shape of false queen cells with drone larvae is unusually long with a characteristically elongate tip which is probably due to the falling of larvae. Bees start the destruction of the cells when the larvae were 3 days old and maximised it before and after capping. Protecting false queen cells in the colony by wrapping, reversing them upside down, or placing in a horizontal position, did not help. The only adult drones that emerged from the false queen cells were those protected in an incubator and in push-in cages. Adult drones from false queen cells had smaller wings, legs, and proboscis than regular drones. The results of this study verify previous reports that the bees do not recognise the different sex of the larvae at least at the early stage of larval development. The late destruction of false queen cells, the similarity in quality and quantity of the produced royal jelly, and the bigger drone cells, allow for the use of drone larvae in cups for the production of royal jelly.

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