In vitro rearing is an important and useful tool for honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) studies. However, it often results in intercastes between queens and workers, which are normally are not seen in hive-reared bees, except when larvae older than three days are grafted for queen rearing. Morphological classification (queen versus worker or intercastes) of bees produced by this method can be subjective and generally depends on size differences. Here, we propose an alternative method for caste classification of female honey bees reared in vitro, based on weight at emergence, ovariole number, spermatheca size and size and shape, and features of the head, mandible and basitarsus. Morphological measurements were made with both traditional morphometric and geometric morphometrics techniques. The classifications were performed by principal component analysis, using naturally developed queens and workers as controls. First, the analysis included all the characters. Subsequently, a new analysis was made without the information about ovariole number and spermatheca size. Geometric morphometrics was less dependent on ovariole number and spermatheca information for caste and intercaste identification. This is useful, since acquiring information concerning these reproductive structures requires time-consuming dissection and they are not accessible when abdomens have been removed for molecular assays or in dried specimens. Additionally, geometric morphometrics divided intercastes into more discrete phenotype subsets. We conclude that morphometric geometrics are superior to traditional morphometrics techniques for identification and classification of honey bee castes and intermediates.
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