While observing: non-acceptance, frequent replacements, and reduced performance in honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) queens, we were induced to analyse a certain number of queens to detect the causes. For this purpose, 99 newly mated queens were bought from 20 Italian queen breeders. In addition, 109 older or at-the-end-of-their-career queens, that showed poor productivity, were collected from honey production hives throughout Italy. All the queens were dissected to check the status of their reproductive system and/or the presence of various anomalies and diseases.
Anatomical and functional anomalies, pertaining to ovaries and spermatheca, also in association with tissue alterations and microorganisms like Nosema spp. and protozoa, were common in both newly mated and older queens, but they were more prevalent in the latter. Observed differences permitted us to highlight the causes of the reduced performance of the queens and of the colonies they originated from. The obtained information could prove useful when it comes to improving queen breeding techniques.