Virgin honeybee queens fail to suppress worker fertility but not fertility signalling

Margarita Orlova*, Osnat Malka, Abraham Hefetz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Queen mating status in social insects is a matter of crucial importance for workers because of its influence on the queen's productivity and consequently their fitness. Behavioural and physiological reactions of workers to the queens mating status have been studied as a proxy to mechanisms maintaining insect sociality. Here we show that unmated honeybee queens have considerably impaired capacity to trigger worker sterility and cooperative behaviour in comparison to mated (and thus more productive) queens and that under unmated queens social harmony in honeybee societies and queen's dominant position are somewhat compromised. Together with this it is shown that honeybee workers exposed to unmated queens despite being active reproductively and behaving accordingly display an impaired ability to advertise their fertility compared to queenless workers. These findings suggest that reproductive development, behavioural reactions and production of fertility signals are differentially regulated and differently influenced by the queen's presence.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)311-317
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grant No. 2007233 from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) to A. Hefetz and C.M. Grozinger, the Argentina Fund of Friends of Tel-Aviv University and the travel fellowship from the Constantiner Institute to M. Orlova. We also express our gratitude to the staff of the Tzriffin research apiary for kindly providing us with the bees, and to Naomi Paz for editorial assistance.


  • Fertility signal
  • Honeybee
  • Queen mating status
  • Worker reproduction


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