Free access
Volume 27, Number 3, 1996
Page(s) 145 - 158
Apidologie 27 (1996) 145-158
DOI: 10.1051/apido:19960303

Cornual gland of the honeybee drone (Apis mellifera L): structure and secretion

G. Koenigera, H. Hänela, M. Wissela and W. Herthb

a  Institut für Bienenkunde (Polytechnische Gesellschaft), Fachbereich Biologie der JW-Goethe Universität, Karl-von-Frisch-Weg 2, D-61440 Oberursel, Germany
b  Zellenlehre, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 230, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany

Abstract - The cornual gland of the drone's endophallus is an epithelial gland, whose cells extend from the tip of the cornual tube, along its lateral parts to the basic hump (dorsal cornua). The gland forms a stripe with a central region of dense and homogeneous secretory cells. To the sides the gland cells become sparse. The secretory cells contain mainly rough endoplasmatic reticulum and numerous mitochondria. The nuclei have several nucleoli and are situated at the apical part. Microvilli border the microfibrillar cuticula into which cell projections often intrude. At the basal membrane the cells are often subtended by a layer of fatty tissue, and oenocytes can also be attached. The secretion in a 3-day-old drone appears either as an orange-coloured layer (deep frozen sections) or as osmiophilic granula (EM) mainly near the lumen of the cornual tube. The cuticula of the cornual tube is untanned and non-sclerotized. Along the lumen of the cornua it is extremely folded and papillated, forming in situ small cavities which contain osmiophilic drops of the secretion, often accumulated in groups. No pores were found, although small granules of secretion occur within the cuticular layers, with the highest concentration near the lumen. During eversion of the cornua the secretion merges on the surface of the cuticula. The cuticula consists of two differently structured layers. Near the lumen of the cornual tube the microfibers extend regular and parallel to the folds; above the gland cells the microfibers are less dense and more irregular.

Key words: Apis mellifera / drone / sexual organ / endophallus / cornual gland