Wedding flight

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The wedding flight is the excursion of state-building insects from the parent colony to found a new colony . It is undertaken by the sexually mature females (queens) as well as the males of the colony. This wedding flight can be observed with ants and termites . The honey bees also take part in wedding flights, but they do not take place directly to found a new colony, but in connection with a division of the people, the swarming instinct (departure of the old queen) or the renewal of an old queen (re-routing).

The wedding flight is an interesting process from an evolutionary point of view. For state-building insects it is a central behavior.

Wedding flight of the bees

Six to ten days after a young queen bee has hatched, she goes on her wedding flight in good weather to mate with several drones at a drone assembly point, whose sperm she stores and uses in her seminal vesicle until the end of her life. Mating takes place in the air, in flight.

The nuptial flight and the multiple mating involved is an essential prerequisite for the acceptance of the Queen as the sole itself reproducing females and the vitality of the whole colony ( the Bien ), which is also called "mammal many bodies."

Queen's acceptance

The following considerations assume that honeybees can distinguish very differentiated how closely among themselves related are. In fact, they can use their extremely well-developed sense of smell (in the chemosensory cells of the antennae ) to distinguish precisely whether a bee belongs to their own colony. This is how they fend off foreign conspecifics at the entrance hole. Dressage experiments show that they are still capable of much finer distinctions.

If all workers were descended from just one drone, the mean genetic coefficient of relationship (degree of relationship, defined by the biomathematist Gustave Malécot ) would be higher (r = 0.75) than to their own mother, the queen, with r = 0.5. This is due to the special feature that the drones arise from unfertilized eggs with only one set of chromosomes, see also parthenogenesis , alleles and haplodiploidy . Due to the descent from an average of around 12 drones, the kinship coefficient falls below the value to one's own mother. In this way, the so-called “genetic interest” is better preserved to support the queen and not her own sisters (see Afterweisel ) in passing on her own (!) Genetic makeup if possible.

Another disadvantage for the queen would arise from mating with only one drone, because a queen produced from her own brood would also increase the coefficient of relationship to the workers to r = 0.75. In fact, it can occasionally be observed in beekeeping practice that female workers induce a young queen, who has just laid her first eggs, to pin a queen cell with the aim of replacing herself. However, there are other possible causes for this behavior.

Colony vitality

The second advantage of the descent from several drones lies in the variation of the properties, which is also demonstrably reflected in a corresponding specialization (fractionation) of individual worker groups. As a result, the bee colony is better able to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to deal with stressful situations. It has a better chance of survival.


  • Friedrich Ruttner: Natural history of honey bees. Biology, social life, species and distribution. 2nd Edition. Kosmos, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-440-09477-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b Jürgen Tautz : The honeybee phenomenon. With photographs by Helga R. Heilmann. Elsevier, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-827418-45-6 .