Journal of Insect Physiology vol:46 issue:9 pages:1303-1312
The elongated spermathecal duct of bumblebees has been studied in hibernating queens, queens shortly after hibernation, mature egg-laying queens and uninseminated queens captured during summer, and workers. Only rather small size differences are found when comparing spermathecae of queens and workers. Clear differences between bumblebee queens and workers are found when comparing the histochemistry of the spermathecal ducts. Adult queens, regardless of age and reproductive status have spermathecal ducts that contain PAS positive material, whereas workers do not. It is suggested that the polysaccharides in the spermathecal ducts of queens are necessary as a source of energy for the rapid activation of spermatozoa passing through the duct prior to oocyte fertilization. An ultrastructural investigation revealed the presence of high glycogen content in the cells lining the duct of queens. Assuming that sperm cells are kept in a rather inactive state in the reservoir, the carbohydrate (glycogen) probably serves as an energy source for the sperm. The comparatively increased spermathecal duct length of bumblebees may increase the retention time of sperm inside the lumen. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.