Worker and queen bees are genetically indistinguishable. However, queen bees are fertile, larger and have a longer lifespan than their female worker counterparts. Differential feeding of larvae with royal jelly controls this caste switching. There is emerging evidence that the queen-bee phenotype is driven by epigenetic mechanisms. In this study, we show that royal jelly--the secretion produced by the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands of worker bees--has histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) activity. A fatty acid, (E)-10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid (10HDA), which accounts for up to 5% of royal jelly, harbours this HDACi activity. Furthermore, 10HDA can reactivate the expression of epigenetically silenced genes in mammalian cells. Thus, the epigenetic regulation of queen-bee development is probably driven, in part, by HDACi activity in royal jelly.