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Straight forward to the queen: pursuing honeybee drones (Apis mellifera L.) adjust their body axis to the direction of the queen


At a natural drone congregation area freeflying drones were attracted by a fast-moving queen dummy and the pursuits of drones were stereoscopically recorded (Fig. 1). The reconstruction of 192 flight paths from successfully approaching drones in chronological three dimensional sequences (Fig. 4) lead to the following results: 1. The alignment of the drone's longitudinal body axis coincides fairly well with the line connecting drone and queen (drone-queen-axis), its mean angular deviation from this line being only 14°. Angles between -5° and 5° occur most frequently (Fig. 5B). Thus, drones head straight to the queen. 2. Lateral deviations from the drone-queen-axis most frequently lie between — 30° and 30° (Fig. 5A) which corresponds to the drone's binocular visual field. 3. The drone's heading was continuously adjusted to the actual target, mean turning speed being 1890°/s. 4. The results lead to the conclusion that honeybee drones choose the shortest way to a fast and not predictably moving mate. A comparison with earlier observations suggests that a drone's mating success depends not only on his skills to win a race but also on his persistence within a group.

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Gries, M., Koeniger, N. Straight forward to the queen: pursuing honeybee drones (Apis mellifera L.) adjust their body axis to the direction of the queen. J Comp Physiol A 179, 539–544 (1996).

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Key words

  • Honeybee drones
  • Reproductive behaviour
  • Male competition
  • Mating flight
  • Stereoscopic observation