Queen and young larval pheromones impact nursing and reproductive physiology of honey bee (Apis mellifera) workers

Kirsten S. Traynor, Yves Le Conte, Robert Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Several insect pheromones are multifunctional and have both releaser and primer effects. In honey bees (Apis mellifera), the queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) and e-beta-ocimene (eβ), emitted by young worker larvae, have such dual effects. There is increasing evidence that these multifunctional pheromones profoundly shape honey bee colony dynamics by influencing cooperative brood care, a fundamental aspect of eusocial insect behavior. Both QMP and eβ have been shown to affect worker physiology and behavior, but it has not yet been determined if these two key pheromones have interactive effects on hypopharyngeal gland (HPG) development, actively used in caring of larvae, and ovary activation, a component of worker reproductive physiology. Experimental results demonstrate that both QMP and eβ significantly suppress ovary activation compared to controls but that the larval pheromone is more effective than QMP. The underlying reproductive anatomy (total ovarioles) of workers influenced HPG development and ovary activation, so that worker bees with more ovarioles were less responsive to suppression of ovary activation by QMP. These bees were more likely to develop their HPG and have activated ovaries in the presence of eβ, providing additional links between nursing and reproductive physiology in support of the reproductive ground plan hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2059-2073
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2014


  • Brood pheromone
  • Honey bee
  • Hypopharyngeal gland
  • Queen mandibular pheromone
  • Reproductive ground plan
  • e-Beta ocimine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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