Worker honey bee ovary development: seasonal variation and the influence of larval and adult nutrition

  • Shelley E. R. Hoover
  • Heather A. Higo
  • Mark L. Winston
Original Paper


We examined the effect of larval and adult nutrition on worker honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) ovary development. Workers were fed high or low-pollen diets as larvae, and high or low-protein diets as adults. Workers fed low-protein diets at both life stages had the lowest levels of ovary development, followed by those fed high-protein diets as larvae and low- quality diets as adults, and then those fed diets poor in protein as larvae but high as adults. Workers fed high-protein diets at both life stages had the highest levels of ovary development. The increases in ovary development due to improved dietary protein in the larval and adult life stages were additive. Adult diet also had an effect on body mass. The results demonstrate that both carry-over of larval reserves and nutrients acquired in the adult life stage are important to ovary development in worker honey bees. Carry-over from larval development, however, appears to be less important to adult fecundity than is adult nutrition. Seasonal trends in worker ovary development and mass were examined throughout the brood rearing season. Worker ovary development was lowest in spring, highest in mid-summer, and intermediate in fall.


Ovary Apis mellifera Nutrition Honey bee Worker reproduction 


  1. Alfonsus EC (1933) Zum pollenverbrauch des bienenvolkes. Arch Bienenk 14:220–223Google Scholar
  2. Amdam GC, Norberg K, Fondrk MK, Page RE Jr (2005) Reproductive groundplan may mediate colony-level selection effects on individual foraging behaviour in honey bees. PNAS 101:11350–11355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beekman M, Oldroyd BP (2003) Effects of cross-feeding anarchistic and wild type honey bees: anarchistic workers are not queen-like. Naturwissenschaften 90:189–192PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Butler CG, Fairey EM (1963) The role of the queen in preventing oogenesis in worker honey bees. J Apic Res 2:14–18Google Scholar
  5. Calis JNM, Boot WJ, Allsopp MH, Beekman M (2002) Getting more than a fair share: nutrition of worker larvae related to social parasitism in the Cape honey bee Apis mellifera capensis. Apidologie 33:193–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dampney JR, Barron AB, Oldroyd BP (2002) Policing of adult honey bees with activated ovaries is error prone. Insect Soc 49:270–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fewell JH, Winston ML (1992) Colony state and regulation of foraging in the honey bee, Apis mellifera L. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 30:387–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fewell JH, Bertram SM (1999) Division of labor in a dynamic environment:response by honeybees (Apis mellifera) to graded changes in colony pollen stores. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 46:171–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Free JB, Williams IH (1975) Factors determining the rearing and rejection of drones by the honeybee colony. Anim Behav 23:650–675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harris JW, Harbo JR (1990) Suppression of ovary development of worker honeybees by association with workers treated with carbon dioxide. J Apic Res 29:187–193Google Scholar
  11. Haydak MH (1970) Honey bee nutrition. Ann Rev Entomol 15:143–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hoover SER, Keeling CI, Winston ML, Slessor KN (2003) The effect of queen pheromones on worker honey bee ovary development. Naturwissenschaften 90:477–480CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Huang Z-H, Robinson GE (1996) Regulation of honey bee division of labour by colony age demography. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 39:147–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hunt LH, Nalepa CA (1994) Nourishment and evolution in insect societies. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  15. Jay SC (1964) Starvation studies of larval honey bees. Can J Zool 42:455–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jay SC (1972) Ovary development of worker honey bees when separated from worker brood by various methods. Can J Zool 48:169–173Google Scholar
  17. Jay SC (1975) Factors influencing ovary development of worker honey bees of European and African origin. Can J Zool 53:1387–1390Google Scholar
  18. Jay SC, Jay DH (1993) The effect of kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa A. Cev.) and yellow flowered broom (Cystisus scoparius Link) pollen on the ovary development of worker honey bes (Apis mellifera L). Apidologie 24:557–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Korst PJAM, Velthuis HHW (1982) The nature of trophallaxis in honeybees. Insectes Soc 29:209–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kropáčová S, Haslbachová H (1969) The development of ovaries in worker honeybees in queenright colonies examined before and after swarming. J Apic Res 9:65–70Google Scholar
  21. Leoncini I, Crauser D, Robinson GE, Le Conte Y (2004) Worker–worker inhibition of honey bee behavioural development independent of queen and brood. Insect Soc 51:392–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Levin MD, Haydak MH (1951) Seasonal variation in weight and ovarian development in the worker honeybee. J Econ Ent 44:54–57Google Scholar
  23. Lin H, Winston ML (1998) The role of nutrition and temperature in the ovarian development of the worker honey bee (Apis mellifera). Can Ent 130:883–891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Maurizio A (1950) The influence of pollen feeding and brood rearing on the length of life and physiological condition of the honeybee. Bee World 31:9–12Google Scholar
  25. Mayer KM, McNally LC, Schneider SS (1998) Ovarian development and trophallaxis in queenless colonies of the honey bee Apis mellifera. J Apic Res 37:295–297Google Scholar
  26. Mohammedi A, Paris A, Crauser D, Le Conte Y (1998) Effect of aliphatic esters on ovary development of queenless bees (Apis mellifera L). Naturwissenschaften 85:455–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moritz RFA (1994) Nourishment and sociality in honeybees. In: Hunt JH, Nalepa CA (eds) Nourishment and evolution in insect societies. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 345–390Google Scholar
  28. Pain J (1955) Physiologie du dévelopment ovarien chez l’ouvrière d’abeille. Abeille Erable 24:12Google Scholar
  29. Pain J (1963) L’alimentation de la jeune abeille. Ann Nutr (Paris) 17:A307–A312Google Scholar
  30. Pernal S F, Currie RW (2000) Pollen quality of fresh and 1-year-old single pollen diets for worker honey bees (Apis mellifera L). Apidologie 31:387–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rhein W (1933) Uber die entstehung des weibichen dimorphismus im bienstaate. Wilh Roux Arch Entwicklungsmechanic Org Abt D Wis Biol 129:601–665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rosov SA (1944) Food consumption by bees. Bee World 25:94–95Google Scholar
  33. Sakagami SF, Akahira Y (1958) Comparison of the ovarian size and number of ovarioles between the worker bees of Japanese and European honeybees. Studies on the Japanese Honey bee I. Kontyu 26:103–109Google Scholar
  34. Schmickl T, Crailsheim K (2001) Cannibalism and early capping: strategy of honeybee colonies in times of experimental pollen shortages. J Comp Physiol A 187:541–547CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Snodgrass RE (1956) Anatomy of the honey bee. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NYGoogle Scholar
  36. Toth AL, Robinson GE (2005) Worker nutrition and division of labour in honeybees. Anim Behav 69:427–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. van der Blom J (1991) Social regulation of egg-laying by queenless honeybee workers (Apis mellifera L.). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 29:341–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Velthuis HHW (1970) Ovarian development in Apis melllifera worker bees. Ent Exp Appl 13:377–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Visscher PK, Dukas R (1995) Honey bees recognize development of nestmates’ ovaries. Anim Behav 49:542–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wheeler D (1996) The role of nourishment in oogenesis. Ann Rev Entomol 41:407–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Winston ML (1987) The biology of the honey bee. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelley E. R. Hoover
    • 1
  • Heather A. Higo
    • 1
  • Mark L. Winston
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

Personalised recommendations