Brain biogenic amines and reproductive dominance in bumble bees (Bombus terrestris)

G. Bloch*, T. Simon, G. E. Robinson, A. Hefetz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


To begin to explore the role of biogenic amines in reproductive division of labor in social insects, brain levels of dopamine, serotonin, and octopamine were measured in bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) workers and queens that differ in behavioral and reproductive state. Levels of all three amines were similar for mated and virgin queens. Young workers that developed with or without a queen had similar amine levels, but in queenright colonies differences in biogenic amine levels were associated with differences in behavior and reproductive physiology. Dominant workers had significantly higher octopamine levels compared with workers of lower dominance status but of similar size, age, and ovary state. High dopamine levels were associated with the last stages of oocyte development irrespective of worker social status and behavior. These results suggest that biogenic amines are involved in behavioral and physiological aspects of regulation of reproduction in bumble bees.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)261-268
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This research has been supported by a research grant funded by the Binational Agriculture Research and Development (BARD) grant No. IS-2306-93 (to AH and GER) and NIH grant DCO3008 (to GER) and by Fulbright and BARD (FI-256-97) postdoctoral fellowships (to GB). We thank Jack C. Kuehn for expert assistance in HPLC analyses and David J. Schulz for critically reading and commenting on a previous version of this manuscript.


  • Biogenic amines
  • Bumble bees
  • Dominance
  • Reproduction
  • Social insects


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