The artificial insemination of bumblebees

doi: 10.1007/PL00001699


Artificial insemination (AI) is a technique to transfer instrumentally sperm from the male into the female's reproductive system. AI is widespread in vertebrates for economical animal breeding and for conservation biology. However, in invertebrates only a few cases of successful AI have been reported. In this paper we describe a new technique to artificially inseminate bumblebee queens (Bombus spp.). Males were dissected and the accessory testes were removed and washed in insect ringer. They were then opened and the outflowing sperm was picked up with a glass capillary mounted on a syringe. For the sperm transfer into the queen we adapted a standard apparatus used for honeybee inseminations. The queen was anaesthetized with CO2, held in place by a queen holder and the sting chamber was opened using two hooks. The sperm containing glass capillary was introduced into the queen's sexual tract. The sperm was released into the bursa copulatrix very near the opening of the spermathecal duct of the queen. Inseminated queens were hibernated for 2 weeks and produced a normal colony under field conditions. Multiple inseminations proved to be successful since different patrilines could be detected in the worker offspring. Successful inseminations were performed for B. terrestris, B. lucorum and B. hypnorum.

Key Words

Artificial insemination, Bombus, bumblebee breeding, multiple mating.