Original Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 366-370

First online:

Regulation of ovary activation in worker honey-bees (Apis mellifera): larval signal production and adult response thresholds differ between anarchistic and wild-type bees

  •  B. OldroydAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences A12, University of Sydney 2006, Australia
  • ,  T. WosslerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa
  • ,  F. RatnieksAffiliated withLaboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Sheffield University, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK

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One-day-old anarchistic (selected for successful worker reproduction) and wild-type honey-bee workers were introduced into queenright colonies of honey-bees of two treatments. In treatment 1, all eggs and larvae were offspring of queens from an anarchistic line. In treatment 2, all eggs and larvae were offspring of wild-type queens. In both treatments, adult workers were wild type. This experimental arrangement was used to test the importance of larval genotype on ovary activation in young adult workers. After 12 days, the introduced bees were dissected to determine the frequency of ovary activation. In those colonies provided with wild-type brood, 0% of introduced wild-type bees and 16% of anarchistic bees had activated ovaries. In those colonies provided with anarchistic brood, 13% of introduced wild-type bees and 41% of anarchistic bees had activated ovaries. These results strongly support the hypothesis that selection for high levels of worker reproduction in anarchistic stocks has reduced the amount or composition of brood pheromones produced by larvae that normally signal workers to refrain from reproduction. They also suggest that anarchistic workers have a higher threshold for these signals than wild-type bees.

Apis mellifera Worker policing Anarchy Brood pheromones Honest signals