Division of labour is a defining characteristic of eusocial insect societies, and includes the partitioning of reproduction to one or few individuals. However, in most social insects, the less-reproductive individuals are capable of reproduction when the dominant individual is removed. In the honey bee (Apis mellifera), workers have ovaries that are normally inactive when the colony is queenright, and become activated only upon queen loss. A suite of ‘cheater’ genes allowing workers to reproduce in queenright colonies would be predicted to be selected for when at low frequencies. Such a trait has emerged in ‘anarchistic’ honey bees; these bees have high levels of worker reproduction, even in queenright colonies. Previous evidence suggests that anarchistic workers may have a higher threshold for ovary regulating pheromones than do wild-type workers. The present experiments compare the ovary development and retinue response of anarchistic and wild-type workers after exposure to queen and brood pheromones.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Apis mellifera (honey bee)
Keywords: worker reproduction, pheromone
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