Social regulation of ovary activation in 'anarchistic' honey-bees (Apis mellifera)

A. B. Barron*, B. P. Oldroyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Honey-bee (Apis mellifera) colonies exhibit extreme reproductive division of labour. Workers almost always have inactive ovaries and the queen monopolises egg laying. Although extremely rare, 'anarchistic' colonies exist in which workers produce male offspring despite the presence of the queen. By comparing the rates of ovary activation in anarchistic and wild-type bees fostered to host colonies of different genotype (i.e. anarchist and non-anarchist) and queen status (i.e. queenless and queenright), we investigated the factors involved in inhibiting ovary activation. Fostered anarchist workers always had a higher level of ovary development than fostered wild-type bees in both anarchist and non-anarchist host colonies. Fostered workers of both genotypes had more active ovaries in anarchistic than in wild-type hosts. Fostered workers of both strains also had more active ovaries in queenless than in queenright hosts. The results suggest that selection for worker reproduction in the anarchistic line has both reduced the effects of brood and queen pheromones on worker ovary inhibition and increased the likelihood that workers of the anarchistic line will develop ovaries compared to wild-type workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-219
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Anarchy
  • Apis mellifera
  • Worker egg laying
  • Worker sterility

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