Queens of social insects make all mate-choice decisions on a single day, except in honeybees whose queens can conduct mating flights for several days even when already inseminated by a number of drones. Honeybees therefore appear to have a unique, evolutionarily derived form of sexual conflict: A queen’s decision to pursue risky additional mating flights is driven by later-life fitness gains from genetically more diverse worker-offspring but reduces paternity shares of the drones she already mated with. We used artificial insemination, RNA-sequencing and electroretinography to show that seminal fluid induces a decline in queen vision by perturbing the phototransduction pathway within 24-48 hr. Follow up field trials revealed that queens receiving seminal fluid flew two days earlier than sister queens inseminated with saline, and failed more often to return. These findings are consistent with seminal fluid components manipulating queen eyesight to reduce queen promiscuity across mating flights.
Bibliographical noteCopyright Liberti et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
- social insects
- sexual conflict