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Principles of Honeybee Genetics


mutant dronesUse this page as a tool for visualizing and understanding some of the various genetic mechanisms at work in honeybees.

Mating behavior

honeybee mating

To keep things simple, further examples will show a queen mated to a single drone.

This can be done with instrumental insemination, to sort genetic traits.

Number of chromosomes in bees. A key factor.

honey bee chromosomes

  • Drones result from unfertilized eggs (parthenogenesis).They have no father.
  • All eggs and sperm carry 16 chromosomes each.
  • Each egg contains a unique combination of 50% of the queens genes.
  • All 10 million sperm produced by a drone are identical clones.
  • Since each queen mates with 10-20 drones, colonies are comprised of subfamilies, each having the same mother but different fathers.
  • Workers of the same subfamily are related by 75% of their genes.
  • This "extra" close relatedness may explain the cooperative, and altruistic behaviors found in colonies.
  • It also explains why workers forego their own reproduction in favor of helping their queen mother raise more sisters. Their sisters are more closely related to them than their own offspring would be. (75% vs 50%)

Cordovan color

cordovan honeybeesItalian honeybees


Cordovan Italian

Wild type Italian


cordovan genes of honeybees

Hygienic behavior

genetics of hygienic behavior

Recent research suggests that this model of hygienic behavior may be too simplistic. Evidence now shows that there may be as many seven genes involved.

Tracheal mite resistance

tracheal mite resistatance

Sex alleles

Honeybee sex alleles. Complementary sex determination

Mitochondrial DNA

honey bee mitochondrial DNA

Links about Honey Bee Genetics

Breeding and Genetics of honeybees

Honey Bee Genome Project

Further reading on honeybee genetics.

Glenn Apiaries

Tom and Suki Glenn owners

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