, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 329-338

Regulation of honey bee age polyethism by juvenile hormone

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Summary

Previous studies suggested that juvenile hormone (JH) is involved in the regulation of physiological processes that are associated with division of labor in honey bees but the effects of JH on behavior were not clear. The hypothesis that JH affects worker age polyethism was tested by observing individually marked bees topically treated with different doses of the JH analog methoprene. Methoprene caused dose-dependent changes in the timing and frequency of occurrence of four important age-dependent tasks: brood and queen care, food storage, nest maintenance, and foraging. Weak or no effects were observed for social interactions, self-grooming, and other non-task behaviors that were not performed in an age-dependent manner. These results support the hypothesis that JH is involved in the control of age polyethism. A model is presented that explains the role of JH in regulating division of labor. JH may regulate the colony's allocation of labor by altering the probabilities of response to tasks. According to this model, hormone titers increase with age according to a genetically determined pattern of development, but this rise may be modulated by environmental and colony factors such as food availability and population structure. Extrinsic regulation of JH may be a mechanism underlying the ability of workers to respond to changing colony needs.