The kelp has, in fact, equal if not greater importance than the female component both as an element of fundamental quality (as a reproducer) for the well-being and performance of the hive, and from a genetic point of view, and finally selective: a super organism with complex genetic characteristics, particular, and clearly “in itself” compared to most of the many living species, in which, for example, the relationships of kinship between the different subfamilies of workers of the colony are determined by the male sperm sample with which the queen has fertilized her eggs. Not a single male (bull, stallion or boar) but a number ranging from 6 to 25 drones (15 on average) determine the genetic inheritance of a colony. Inrecent years a serious trend of loss of longevity and fertility of queens has intensified, increasingly “habitual” and repeated substitutions, reduction of fertility, which often result in lack of fitness (1) and performance of the entire colony, resulting in heavy additional costs for the breeder. And what have we beekeepers done? Much has been said and tried to improve about this problematic, but attention has been focused on the queen alone, starting from her biology and reproductive behavior, up to the manipulation by the beekeeper. We are there focused on: quality or not of fertilization as a function of the spermatheca, adequate temperature and nutrition to promote the migration of spermatozoa through the oviducts, size of the fertilization nuclei, timing for the correct homeostasis (2), possible damage from manipulation, caging and transport.
And the drones, how much and how do they count in this recent and dramatic deterioration of the vitality and fecundity of bees?
Recent studies, confirmed by a wealth of experience in the field, show that the health of drones and their reproductive value (3), the quality and viability of their sperm, they are decisive for the physiology, efficiency and longevity of queen bees, with important consequences for the set of performance of the entire colony.
There are many factors that can affect the reproductive quality of drones: causes of an environmental nature (nutrition, temperature, seasonal trend), exposure to contamination, pathologies, genetics of origin, age, conduction beekeeping. In this regard, the new scientific acquisitions are remarkable and varied. Excellently highlighted, systematized and framed in an overview by the review study of scientific research on these issues by Rangel and Fisher, published by Apidologie in 2019. Study from which below I draw, synthesize and comment various and very interesting new knowledge and solicitations to deepen.