Laying workers in queenless honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies have physiological states similar to that of nurse bees but opposite that of foragers

Takayoshi Nakaoka, Hideaki Takeuchi, Takeo Kubo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Honeybee workers shift their labors from nursing their brood to foraging according to their age after eclosion. When the queen is lost from the colony, however, some workers become 'laying workers' whose ovaries develop to lay eggs. Here we investigated whether the physiological state of laying workers is more similar to that of nurse bees or foragers by examining the hypopharyngeal gland (HPG) and hemolymph vitellogenin titers. In a normal colony, nurse bees have well-developed HPGs that synthesize 'major royal jelly proteins' and high hemolymph vitellogenin titers, whereas foragers have shrunken HPGs that synthesize 70-kDa α-glucosidase and low hemolymph vitellogenin titers. In queenless colonies, however, workers with developed ovaries (laying workers) tended to have more developed HPGs and to synthesize major royal jelly proteins, whereas workers with shrunken HPGs tended to synthesize α-glucosidase and to have undeveloped ovaries. Furthermore, the workers with developed ovaries had higher vitellogenin titers than nurse bees, whereas those with undeveloped ovaries had lower vitellogenin titers. These findings indicate that the physiological state of laying workers is similar to that of nurse bees, but opposite that of foragers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)806-812
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2008
Externally publishedYes



  • Honeybee
  • Hypopharyngeal gland
  • Laying worker
  • Ovarian ground plan hypothesis
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science

Cite this