In social bees, foraging behaviour is correlated with reproductive status and sucrose sensitivity via endocrine pathways. This association led to the hypothesis that division of labour in social insect societies is derived from an ancestral ground plan that functions to synchronize dietary preferences with reproductive needs in solitary insects. However, the relationship between these traits is unknown for solitary bees, which represent the ancestral state of social bees. We used the proboscis extension response assay to measure sucrose response among reproductive females of the solitary alkali bee (Nomia melanderi) as a function of acute juvenile hormone (JH) treatments and reproductive physiology. We also tested long-term effects of JH on reproductive development in newly emerged females. JH did not have short-term effects on reproductive physiology or sucrose response, but did have significant long-term effects on ovary and Dufour's gland development. Dufour's gland size, not ovary development, was a significant predictor of sucrose response. This provides support for the reproductive ground plan hypothesis, because the Dufour's gland has conserved reproductive functions in bees. Differing results from this study and honeybees suggest independent origins of division of labour may have evolved via co-option of different components of a conserved ground plan.
Keywords: Dufour's gland; Nomia melanderi; gustatory response; juvenile hormone; proboscis extension response; reproductive ground plan hypothesis.
© 2017 The Author(s).