, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 555-561
Date: 29 Jul 2003

Differential feeding of worker larvae affects caste characters in the Cape honeybee, Apis mellifera capensis

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Abstract

Sections of brood from colonies of the Cape honeybee ( Apis mellifera capensis), the African honeybee ( A. m. scutellata), and hybrid bees of the two races were exchanged between colonies to study the effect of different brood-origin/nurse-bee combinations on development of caste characters. When Cape larvae were raised by African workers the amount of food provided almost doubled in comparison with Cape larvae reared by their own workers. In contrast, African larvae raised by Cape workers were provided with only half the amount they received from their own workers. After the bees emerged, we found a large degree of plasticity in characters related to caste differentiation, which corresponded closely to the amount of food provided. Super-fed Cape bees had enlarged spermathecae, were heavier than normal workers and developed more rapidly, and had reduced pollen combs, all typical for a more queen-like condition. Ovariole numbers did not appear to be enhanced by additional feeding. Cape bees that behave as social parasites in African bee colonies were most queen-like in the characters studied, albeit within the range that was found for Cape bees from normal colonies, suggesting within-colony selection for characters that enhance reproduction.

Communicated by R. Page