Insect juvenile hormone (JH) has been related to modulation of vitellogenin (Vg) synthesis, a protein produced by fat body cells, secreted in haemolymph and sequestered by developing oocytes. A stimulatory JH action has been described for the majority of species studied thus far. In some insects, however, Vg synthesis has been inhibited or unaffected by JH. The aim of this study was to re-examine the action of JH on Vg synthesis in Apis mellifera workers, since contrasting effects of this hormone were described. Newly emerged worker bees were treated with different doses of pyriproxyfen (PPN), a potent JH analogue. Vg and total protein were quantified in haemolymph samples of newly emerged up to 6-day-old worker bees. Protein synthesis activity of fat body cultured in vitro and ultrastructure of fat body cells were also examined. High doses (1.25, 2.5, 5 and 10 &mgr;g) of PPN inhibited the onset and accumulation of Vg in the haemolymph of young worker bees in a dose-dependent fashion. This inhibition was not a result of fat body cell degeneration or death, as illustrated by fat body cells ultrastructure analysis, but by impairing Vg synthesis, as demonstrated by in vitro culture of fat body cells. Low doses (0.001, 0.01 and 0.1 &mgr;g) neither affected the normal synthesis and secretion of Vg into the haemolymph nor caused an early onset of Vg in treated bees (which could be interpreted as a JH-activating effect), as shown by Vg quantification at 24-h intervals. The results suggest that a low JH titre in honey bee workers permits the onset and accumulation of Vg in haemolymph, whereas high JH levels turn off Vg synthesis.