Field Dissection of the Honey Bee Queen Spermatheca

Bee Health January 28, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF


Instrumental Insemination of Honey Bee Queens


Diagram of honey bee queen insemination from Sue Cobey's fact sheet, "Insemination of the Queen"


Insemination Techniques

  1. Eversion of the Honey Bee Drone Endophallus for Insemination
  2. Semen Collection for Artificial Insemination in Honey Bees
    1. Saline Recipe
  3. Insemination of the Honey Bee Queen
  4. Field Dissection of the Honey Bee Queen Spermatheca


UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey with a frame of banked queens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology)


These pages are brought to you by Susan Cobey at

For classes in instrumental insemination by Susan Cobey, see: The UC Davis entomology website

Grasp the queen’s terminal abdominal segments, dorsally and ventrally (top and bottom). With your fingernails or forceps, pull these segments apart separating them from the rest of the queen’s body.


Separating the terminal abdominal segments

The intestine and a large, shapeless, clear poison sac are exposed. Among this is the spermatheca, a white, spherical structure, about 1 mm in diameter. This will appear whitish and rough in texture, due to a covering net of trachea.


Teasing out the spermatheca

Tease the spermatheca out of the body cavity with your thumbnail. Gently roll the spermatheca between your fingers to remove the tracheal net. This will collapse in a small separated white mass. The color shade and density of the spermatheca indicates the reproductive status of the queen. In the virgin queen, this is crystal clear.


Teasing out the spermatheca

The spermatheca of a well mated queen is the color of drone semen, a creamy, coffee au lait color with a pattern of marbled swirls. A cloudy or milky whitish appearance, as in the bottom left photo, indicates an inadequate supply of semen. The queen was not mated properly or is old and has used up her stores.


Honey bee queen spermatheca

Becoming familiar and with and recognizing the varying degrees of spermatheca coloration and density is a valuable management tool.


Spermatheca with tracheal net removed


Spermatheca from mated and un-mated queens

Download a .pdf: Field Dissection of the Honey Bee Queen Spermatheca

EN Español: Disección de espermateca en el Campo