Who brings… trousers?
Virgin queens usually perform a reduced number of orientation flights, short and short, of maximum 2/5 minutes (Woyke, 2007), preparatory to the real wedding flights in the DCA (Koeniger, 2007). Fertilization flights on the other hand have a duration ranging from 3 minutes (shortest flight recorded) to 57 minutes (longest flight), with an average of between 15 and 30 minutes (Ruttner, 1964). Queens can make multiple consecutive bridal flights on the same day (up to seven) and for several consecutive days (Heidiger, 2014) to reach the DCAs typically at a distance of 1/2 km from their hive. They are fertilized by several drones in the same mating flight, averaging 8 (Woyke, 1960). A patrilinearity study on sperm, in a single nuptial flight, ascertained a range from 5 to 10 drones for single coupling (Franck, 2002). Temperatura, environmental conditions, age of the queen, distance from the Dca, concentration of drones in the neighboring DCAs… may affect the duration and frequency of flight activity of virgins. Typically, when the oviducts are filled with 120 million sperm, the queen returns to the hiveare. In the following twenty-four hours the process is carried outI know about 6 million – only! – of spermatozoa, through the spermatic duct, pass into the spermatheca. So the 95% of sperm are expelled via vagi
na (Woyke, 1988). Some queens fertilize into a single nuptial flight, others in two, others in three or maximum in four flights (Roberts, 1944). What makes queen bees already fruitful return to the DCA? To answer this question Woyke analyzed, in four years from 1960 to 1964, 2,434 flights of 628 queens. It turned out that 37% of thethe already fertile queens do not return to fertilize, while 63% do, but among these only 38% fertilize a seconfrom time and 8% a third time. this behavior is consequent to the amount of sperm acquired in the spermatheca. An adequate amount of semen in the oviducts, that allows the passage in the spermatheca of 5.3 million spermatozoa makes it so that no further fertilization is needed, 3.5 million spermatozoa instead are not enough, this pushes the queen to exit the hive again.
Limiting as much as possible the duration and frequency of the Queen’s flights is therefore a fundamental aspect of the bee’s survival strategy: predators, adverse weather, drift in other colonies, all this can have a very high cost for the colony, which often results in its death. The wedding flight should be as short as possible but with the necessary result
and it is once again the drones that determine the behavior and choices of the young
virgin queen bees
. Already in 1964 Woyke had hypothesized that the queen reiterates nuptial flights, depending on the result of the last mating, that is, the amount of sperm or concentration of sperm contained in the spermatheca.