A female honeybee (Apis mellifera) will either become a worker or a queen depending on whether she is fed royal jelly in the larvae stage. Royal jelly has long been known for its nutritional value, but the specific mechanism that induces this differentiation has remained unknown.

In this study, researcher Masaki Kamakura shows that the protein known as royalactin is responsible for the increased body size and ovary development and shortened developmental time in honeybees. Kamakura was able to produce similar results with royalactin in the fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster). This research was published in the 26 May issue of Nature.

Nature 473, 478–483 (26 May 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10093

For more information: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v473/n7348/full/nature10093.html