Transgenerational accumulation of methylome changes discovered in commercially reared honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens

Yao Yi, Xu Jiang He, Andrew B. Barron, Yi Bo Liu, Zi Long Wang, Wei Yu Yan, Zhi Jiang Zeng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whether a female honey bee (Apis mellifera) develops into a worker or a queen depends on her nutrition during development, which changes the epigenome to alter the developmental trajectory. Beekeepers typically exploit this developmental plasticity to produce queen bee by transplanting worker larvae into queen cells to be reared as queens, thus redirecting a worker developmental pathway to a queen developmental pathway. We studied the consequences of this manipulation for the queen phenotype and methylome over four generations. Queens reared from worker larvae consistently had fewer ovarioles than queens reared from eggs. Over four generations the methylomes of lines of queens reared from eggs and worker larvae diverged, accumulating increasing differences in exons of genes related to caste differentiation, growth and immunity. We discuss the consequences of these cryptic changes to the honey bee epigenome for the health and viability of honey bee stocks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103476
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Early online date11 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenome
  • Caste differentiation
  • Sociogenomics
  • Differential methylation


Dive into the research topics of 'Transgenerational accumulation of methylome changes discovered in commercially reared honey bee (<i>Apis mellifera</i>) queens'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this