Flow cytometry as a rapid and reliable method to quantify sperm viability in the honeybee Apis mellifera

doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22462


An important measure of male quality is sperm viability; i.e., the percentage of live sperm within an ejaculate, as this provides an accurate measure of the number of sperm potentially available for egg fertilization. Sperm viability is often determined by fluorescence microscopy using dyes that differentially stain viable and nonviable sperm, but the technique has a number of limitations. Here, a flow cytometry (FCM) method was developed, which allows the rapid determination of honeybee sperm viability, facilitating high throughput analyses. Using samples with known sperm viabilities, it was found that data obtained from FCM were more accurate and less variable compared with data obtained for the same samples using fluorescence microscopy. It was also found that a previously reported additional population of honeybee sperm found in datasets using FCM is caused by freeze–thawing samples. In conclusion, the method described here allows to quantify sperm viability of honeybees quickly and with high accuracy. This will be of great value for future scientific research and could also be of value to guide future bee breeding programs, given the agricultural importance of honeybees as pollinators.

Key Words

honeybee, sperm, flow cytometry, microscopy, viability, SYBR 14, propidium iodide, liquid nitrogen

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