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Age (Dordr). 2008 Sep;30(2-3):177-85. doi: 10.1007/s11357-008-9061-4. Epub 2008 Jun 22.

Evolution and mechanisms of long life and high fertility in queen honey bees.

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Department of Animal Biology and Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1206 W. Gregory, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are eusocial insects that exhibit striking caste-specific differences in longevity. Queen honey bees live on average 1-2 years whereas workers live on average 15-38 days in the summer and 150-200 days in the winter. Previous studies of senescence in the honey bee have focused on establishing the importance of extrinsic mortality factors (predation, weather) and behavior (nursing and foraging) in worker bee longevity. However, few studies have tried to elucidate the mechanisms that allow queen honey bees to achieve their long lifespan without sacrificing fecundity. Here, we review both types of studies and emphasize the importance of understanding both proximate and ultimate causes of the unusual life history of honey bee queens.

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