Metabolomics analysis of larval secretions reveals a caste-driven nutritional shift in a social wasp colony

Levona Bodner*, Weronika Jasinska, Sofia Bouchebti, Inon Scharf, Yariv Brotman, Eran Levin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social wasps exhibit a unique nutritional cycle in which adults feed larvae with prey, and larvae provide adults with larval secretions (LS). LS serves as a vital nutritional source for adults, contributing to the colony's health and reproductive success. The LS nutrient composition has been previously reported in various wasp species, yet these analyses focused solely on worker-destined larvae, overlooking the potential caste designation effects on LS composition. Using metabolomics techniques, we analysed and compared the metabolite and nutrient composition in LS of queen- and worker-destined larvae of the Oriental hornet. We found that queen-destined LS (QLS) contain greater amounts of most metabolites, including amino acids, and smaller amounts of sugars compared to worker-destined LS (WLS). The amino acid-to-sugar ratio in QLS was approximately tenfold higher than in WLS. Thus, as the colony transitions from the production of workers to the production of reproductives, it gradually experiences a nutritional shift that may influence the behaviour and physiology of the adult nest population. This caste-specific metabolite profile and nutrient composition of LS reflect the differences in the diet and physiological requirements of worker- and queen-destined larvae and may play a critical role in caste determination in social wasps.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104128
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
StatePublished - Jun 2024


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1538/18
Israel Science Foundation


    • Amino acids
    • Carbohydrates
    • Caste determination
    • Colony nutrition
    • Metabolite profile
    • Nutrient composition


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