The effect of queen pheromones on worker honey bee ovary development

Naturwissenschaften. 2003 Oct;90(10):477-80. doi: 10.1007/s00114-003-0462-z. Epub 2003 Sep 18.


We report results that address a long-standing controversy in honey bee biology, the identity of the queen-produced compounds that inhibit worker honey bee ovary development. As the honey bee is the only organism for which identities have been proposed for any pheromone that regulates reproduction, the resolution of its identity is of broad significance. We examined the effects of synthetic honey bee queen mandibular pheromone (QMP), four newly identified queen retinue pheromone components, and whole-queen extracts on the ovary development of caged worker bees. The newly identified compounds did not inhibit worker ovary development alone, nor did they improve the efficacy of QMP when applied in combination. QMP was as effective as queen extracts at ovary regulation. Caged workers in the QMP and queen extract treatments had better developed ovaries than did workers remaining in queenright colonies. We conclude that QMP is responsible for the ovary-regulating pheromonal capability of queens from European-derived Apis mellifera subspecies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Female
  • Honey
  • Ovary / growth & development
  • Pheromones / isolation & purification
  • Pheromones / pharmacology
  • Pheromones / physiology*
  • Social Behavior


  • Pheromones