Regulation of queen-worker conflict in bumble-bee (Bombus terrestris) colonies

Guy Bloch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


In annual colonies of bumble-bees overt queen-worker conflict is limited to a distinct 'competition phase' (CPh). In unmanipulated Bombus terrestris colonies, the queen's switch to male production (the 'switch point', SP) accounted for only 22% of the variation in the onset of the CPh. In some colonies, the CPh even began before the SP. The CPh was more strongly correlated with the transition in queen production (r = 0.79). Replacing the queen eggs with male eggs or doubling the number of workers in young colonies resulted in a significantly earlier onset of the CPh and a significantly earlier transition to queen production. Replacing queen eggs with female eggs did not have this effect. These manipulations did not affect the timing of the queen's switch from female to male production. These findings show that the mechanism underlying the queen-worker conflict in insect societies is more complex than previously appreciated. The onset of queen-worker conflict cannot be attributed simply to a single factor such as the queen's switch to male production or a decrease in queen inhibition. Rather, multiple cues are important.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2465-2469
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1437
StatePublished - 22 Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Bumble-bees
  • Caste determination
  • Queen-worker conflict
  • Reproduction
  • Social evolution


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