Hormonal regulation of behavioural development in the honey bee is based on changes in the rate of juvenile hormone biosynthesis

Zhi Yong Huang, Gene E. Robinson, Stephen S. Tobe, Koichiro J. Yagi, Colette Strambi, Alain Strambi, Barbara Stay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the adult worker honey bee (Apis mellifera L.), increases in the haemolymph titre of juvenile hormone underlie behavioural development, from nest duties to foraging. However, the physiological basis of juvenile hormone titre regulation was unknown. Using a radiochemical assay for juvenile hormone biosynthesis in vitro, we demonstrate that differences in juvenile hormone titres among bees performing different age-dependent tasks are a consequence of changes in rates of hormone synthesis by the corpora allata. Rates of juvenile hormone biosynthesis were low in newly emerged bees, 7-9-day-old nurse bees, and 14-15-day-old bees collected from the nest periphery, and high in foragers. Rates of biosynthesis were highly correlated with haemolymph titres of juvenile hormone measured in the same individuals. Corpora allata contained mostly methyl farnesoate, the immediate precursor of juvenile hormone, and released principally juvenile hormone III into the incubation medium, indicating no appreciable hormone storage. We also report similarities and differences in parameters of juvenile hormone biosynthesis between nurse bees and foragers that were found during the course of a detailed characterization of the radiochemical assay for adult worker honey bees. These results, coupled with the fact that it is possible to measure rates of juvenile hormone biosynthesis from individual bees, indicate that the radiochemical assay will be useful in further studies of hormonal regulation of bee behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-741
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of insect physiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1991


  • Apis mellifera
  • corpora allata
  • division of labour
  • honey bee
  • juvenile hormone
  • social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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