Effects of social conditions on juvenile hormone mediated reproductive development in Bombus terrestris workers

Guy Bloch, David W. Borst, Z. Y. Huang, Gene E. Robinson, Abraham Hefetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the annual life cycle of the bumble bee Bombus terrestris (L.) colony, there is a stage characterized by worker reproduction in the presence of the queen. It has been proposed that this is a result of a decrease in queen inhibition. This hypothesis was examined by studying the effects of queens taken from colonies at different stages of development on several aspects of worker physiology and behaviour: rates of Juvenile Hormone (JH) release in vitro, ovary development, and behaviour associated with reproduction. After optimizing and validating the radiochemical assay for JH release for bumble bee workers, we found that queenless workers had significantly more developed ovaries and higher rates of release of JH than did queenright workers, confirming and extending previous findings that suggest that bumblebee ovarian development is under JH control. Mated queens, separated from their colony and brood, can have the same inhibitory effect on the reproductive development of callow workers. In contrast, workers confined with virgin queens or in queenless groups demonstrated a significantly higher rate of release of JH, overt aggression and threatening behaviours. However, there were no differences in rates of release of JH between workers confined in groups in the laboratory with queens taken from colonies either before or alter the onset of worker reproduction. Furthermore, overt aggression and threatening behaviours were similar and low in both types of groups. These results gave no support to the hypothesis that a decrease in queen inhibition is associated with the onset of worker reproduction. We also show that young workers reared in colonies either before or after worker reproduction occurs, or in queenless colonies, all demonstrated similar, low rates of release of JH. These results suggest that older workers may inhibit the corpora allata of younger workers in queenless colonies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-267
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996


  • Apidae
  • Bombus terrestris
  • Juvenile Hormone
  • aggressive behaviour
  • bumble bees
  • corpora allata
  • queen control
  • regulation of reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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