Ecdysteroid titer, ovary status, and dominance in adult worker and queen bumble bees (Bombus terrestris)

Guy Bloch*, Abraham Hefetz, Klaus Hartfelder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The role of ecdysteroids in the regulation of dominance and reproduction in social Hymenoptera is little explored. In the current study we compared ecdysteroid titers in hemolymph of individual queen and worker bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) that differ in their behavior, reproductive status and social environment. Egg-laying queens that head colonies and have ovaries exhibiting all stages of follicle development, had a higher ecdysteroid titer than virgin queens whose ovaries contained only follicles at initial stages. In workers, the relationship between ecdysteroid titers and follicle development appears to be more complex and to be influenced by the bee's social status and social environment. Shortly after emergence, young workers had only follicles at the initial stages of oogenesis and they exhibited a low ecdysteroid titer. No significant correlation was detected between ovary status and ecdysteroid titer in workers, with some workers showing activated ovaries but low ecdysteroid titers. However, at six days of age, a trend towards higher ecdysteroid titer was observed for workers in queenless groups, a condition characterized by rapid follicle development relative to queenright conditions. In these queenless groups, high social status was associated with high ecdysteroid titers. By contrast, in queenright workers ecdysteroid titers were low, even for bees with presumably high social status that had activated ovaries and were observed performing oviposition behavior. This study suggests that ecdysteroids are involved in regulation of reproduction in B. terrestris. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1033-1040
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support by Fulbright and Binational Agriculture Research and Development (BARD, FI-256-97) postdoctoral fellowships (to G.B.), by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ha1625/3-1, to K.H.), and by a Binational Agriculture Research and Development (BARD) grant (no. IS-2306-93, to A.H. and G.E.R.) is gratefully acknowledged. We are most grateful to Jim Nardi and Gene E. Robinson for critically reading and commenting on previous versions of this manuscript. The ecdysone antiserum was a generous gift of W.E. Bollenbacher.


  • Bumble bee
  • Dominance
  • Ecdysteroids
  • Oogenesis
  • Regulation of reproduction


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