Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 555–561 | Cite as

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

  • Mike H. AllsoppEmail author
  • Johan N. M. Calis
  • Willem J. Boot
Original Article


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.


Apis mellifera capensis  Apis mellifera scutellata Caste differentiation Larval food Workers 



Willem Boot and Johan Calis are supported by the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO). They visited South Africa in November 2000 on a travel grant of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and financial support by MITOX. Theresa Wossler is thanked for her help in obtaining Cape worker-laid brood from Pretoria and Louis van Niekerk is thanked for obtaining African honeybee colonies. Chris Fransman and Jhill Johns are thanked for dissections of sampled bees.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mike H. Allsopp
    • 1
    Email author
  • Johan N. M. Calis
    • 2
  • Willem J. Boot
    • 2
  1. 1.Honeybee Research SectionARC-Plant Protection Research InstituteStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Laboratory of EntomologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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