Diploid drones

Normally drones develop from unfertilized eggs and are haploid. Diploid drones (called also "biparental males") develop from fertilized eggs [1][2] which are homozygous at sex locus. In nature diploid drones do not survive until the end of larval development. The larvae of diploid drones are eaten by workers [3] within few hours after hatching from egg [4] despite the fact that they are viable [5][6].

Adult (imago) diploid drones can be reared in laboratory by hatching eggs in incubator and feeding larvae with royal jelly without workers [7][8]. The larva can be transferred to colony after 2-3 days. At this age workers feed them normally. Diploid drones can be reared also in autumn in mating nuclei with about 1000 workers [9].

Externally adult diploid drones are similar to haploid drones. In comparison to haploid drones diploid once are larger, heavier [10][11][12] but see [13][14], have smaller testes [15][14], fewer testicular tubules [16], fewer wing hooks [14] and lower vitellogenin concentration [14]. Diploid drone larvae produce more cuticular hydrocarbons than workers but less than haploid drones [17] but see [18].
Diploid drones produce diploid spermatozoa [19] containing twice as much DNA as haploid spermatozoa [20][14]. Diploid spermatozoa are longer than haploid spermatozoa; their head is particularly long [21]. Ultrastructure of haploid and diploid drones is similar [22]. In theory triploid honey bees can be obtained by inseminating queen with diploid spermatozoa [21], however, this was not achieved so far because of small number of sperm produced by diploid drones.

Workers recognize the diploid drones larvae using substances present at their bodies [23]. It was suggested that diploid drones produce pheromone called "cannibalism substance" which is a signal to workers that they should be destroyed [23] see also [24]. Such self-destructive behaviour of diploid drones can evolve because they are neither able to reproduce nor help their relatives. Eating of the diploid drones at early stage of larval development allows to save valuable resources and produce bigger number of their relatives. However, no cuticular compound specific for diploid drone larvae was found [17]. First instar larvae of haploid and diploid drones differ in relative amount of cuticular compounds [17] and the difference can be used by workers for detection of diploid drones. In older larvae the differences in cuticular compounds are smaller [14].

In natural conditions frequency of diploid drones (before destruction by workers) in a colony is 0.05±0.03 (mean±SD) [25]. The frequency can be much higher in case of inbreeding. In colonies with large proportion of diploid drones there is "shot brood" - brood of different ages scattered irregularly on a comb [26][27][28][29]. Multiple mating by the queen leads to reduced variance of proportion of diploid drones present in the colony [30]. When a queen is artificially inseminated with semen of one drone which is her brother, half of her female offspring develop into diploid drones [26].

Reviews: [31][32]
Other references: [33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]


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