Indexed on: 11 Jun '10Published on: 11 Jun '10Published in: Chemical senses
Stingless bees, like honeybees, live in highly organized, perennial colonies. Their eusocial way of life, which includes division of labor, implies that only a fraction of the workers leave the nest to forage for food. To ensure a sufficient food supply for all colony members, stingless bees have evolved different mechanisms to recruit workers to foraging or even to communicate the location of particular food sites. In some species, foragers deposit pheromone marks between food sources and their nest, which are used by recruited workers to locate the food. To date, pheromone compounds have only been described for 3 species. We have identified the trail pheromone of a further species by means of chemical and electrophysiological analyses and with bioassays testing natural gland extracts and synthetic compounds. The pheromone is a blend of wax type and terpene esters. The relative proportions of the single components showed significant differences in the pheromones of foragers form 3 different colonies. This is the first report on a trail pheromone comprised of esters of 2 different biogenetic origins proving variability of the system. Pheromone specificity may serve to avoid confusions between the trails deposited by foragers of different nests and, thus, to decrease competition at food sources.