The critical period for caste determination in Bombus terrestris and its juvenile hormone correlates

Jonathan Cnaani, Gene E. Robinson, Abraham Hefetz

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The critical period for caste determination and its juvenile hormone (JH III) correlates were studied in Bombus terrestris. Larvae of known age and instar were taken from young colonies, in which they would have been reared as workers, and placed into groups of queenless workers. Under these conditions the critical age for caste determination was 5 days, during the second instar. Endocrine correlates of caste determination were obtained by determining profiles of juvenile hormone titer and juvenile hormone biosynthesis, measured by chiral-specific radioimmunoassay and the in vitro radiochemical assay, respectively. By the middle of the second instar prospective queen larvae had significantly higher rates of juvenile hormone biosynthesis and juvenile hormone titer than prospective worker larvae. Based on the coincidence of timing of both the critical period and the appearance of caste-specific juvenile hormone titer, we suggest that juvenile hormone plays a role in the mechanisms that control caste determination in B. terrestris.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1089-1094
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2000


  • Bombus terrestris
  • Caste determination
  • Criticalperiod
  • JH
  • Social insects


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