Effects of vitellogenin in age polyethism and population dynamics of honeybees

Marisabel Rodriguez Messan, Robert Page, Yun Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The complexity of honeybees provides systems to study mechanisms affecting their population dynamics. An essential environmental variable influencing the age-based division of labor of worker honeybees is their nutritional status. We present basic but important assumptions that can help us understand the complexity of honeybee population dynamics given their nutritional status. We propose a non-linear differential equation system that models the population dynamics of brood and worker bees (nurses and foragers) within a colony. The dynamics of these populations are influenced by the available stored pollen in cells and the current levels of vitellogenin (VG), a major storage protein, in the fat body of nurse bees. Our model shows: (a) the importance of pollen collection and consumption rates, adequate feeding rates to the queen, and the impact of good nutrition during the larvae stage for future foraging activity; (b) the size of both the brood and worker populations at equilibrium are directly dependent upon the increase of levels of VG titers in nurse bees; (c) division of labor regulatory effects determined by the VG titers in nurse bees are important for balancing nurse bee and forager populations; (d) coexistence of both brood and worker populations is dependent upon available food for the brood (i.e. pollen collected and converted to VG and available foragers); (e) taking into account seasonal changes in pollen collection improves the prediction of long term consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-107
Number of pages20
JournalEcological Modelling
StatePublished - Nov 24 2018


  • Division of labor
  • Honeybees
  • Mathematical model
  • Nutrition
  • Pollen-derived proteins
  • Seasonal changes
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling


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