The role of tyramine and octopamine in the regulation of reproduction in queenless worker honeybees

Mor Salomon*, Osnat Malka, Robert K. Vander Meer, Abraham Hefetz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In honeybees, workers under queenless condition compete for reproduction and establish reproductive dominance hierarchy. Ovary activation is generally accompanied by the expression of queen-like pheromones. Biogenic amines (BAs), in particular dopamine, are believed to be involved in this process by regulating ovarian development. However, the role of BAs in establishing reproductive dominance or their effect on queen-like pheromone production was not investigated. Here, we explored the effect of octopamine (OA) and tyramine (TA) oral treatments on the propensity of treated bees to become reproductively dominant and produce queen-like pheromones in Dufour's and mandibular glands. One bee in a pair was treated with either OA or TA while the other was fed sugar solution. TA was found to enhance ovary development and the production of esters in the Dufour's gland and 9HDA (queen component) in the mandibular glands, thus facilitating worker reproductive dominance. OA, on the other hand, did not enhance ovarian development or ester production, but increased the production of 10HDA (worker major component) in the mandibular glands of their sugar-paired mates. OA is known to induce foraging behavior by workers, while increased production of 10HDA characterizes nursing workers. Therefore, we suggest that TA induces reproductive division of labor, while OA treatment results in caste differentiation of workers to foragers and nurses.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)123-131
Number of pages9
JournalDie Naturwissenschaften
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Tovit Simon for her technical assistance, and Yossi Kamer from the Tzrifin Apiary for assistance in establishing the experimental hives. This research was supported by grant no. 2007233 from the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and post-doc fellowship from the Council of Higher Education in Israel (Vatat) to MS.


  • Biogenic amines
  • Dominance
  • Honeybees
  • Pheromones
  • Reproductive division of labor
  • Workers


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