Examples of Apis mellifera ovarioles of naturally mated queens viewed in cross section.

Published estimates of the number of ovarioles found in the ovaries of honey bee, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) queens range from 100 to 180 per ovary. Within the context of a large-scale study designed to assay the overall quality of queens obtained from various commercial sources, a simple histology-based method for accurate determination of ovariole number was developed and then applied to a sample of 75 queens. Although all 10 commercial sources evaluated provided queens with ovariole numbers within the expected range, ovariole number was found to vary significantly across sources. Overall, and within most of the individual samples, there was no correlation of ovariole number with other morphological attributes such as thoracic width, wing length, or wet weight. Queens from two of the sources, however, displayed a significant negative relationship between wet weight and ovariole number. This study provides baseline data on ovariole number in commercial honey bee queens in the United States at a time when honey bee populations are declining; the method described can be used in studies relating ovariole number in queens to egg production and behavior.

Jackson JT, Tarpy DR, Fahrbach SE. 2011. Histological estimates of ovariole number in honey bee queens, Apis mellifera, reveal lack of correlation with other queen quality measures. Journal of Insect Science 11:82 available online: insectscience.org/11.82