Free access
Volume 31, Number 3, May-june 2000
Page(s) 357 - 365
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2000127

Apidologie 31 (2000) 357-365

The role of floral oils in the nestmate recognition system of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

Stephen G. Downs - Francis L.W. Ratnieks - Sarah L. Jefferies - Helen E. Rigby

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

(Received 26 March 1999; revised 11 October 1999; accepted 27 October 1999)


Nestmate recognition is essential for maintaining colony integrity in social insects. To discriminate between nestmates and non-nestmates, social insects use self-produced and environmentally-acquired recognition cues. In honey bees, both types of recognition cues have been implicated. We investigated the effect that floral oils (anethole, citronellal, limonene and linalool) have on the probability of nestmates and non-nestmates being accepted by guard bees at nest entrances. Floral oils did not affect the probability of workers, either nestmates or non-nestmates, being accepted by guards. However, the presence of floral oils did increase the time taken for a guard to reject an introduced bee. These data show that guards are sensitive to floral oils, but use other recognition cues when assessing colony affiliation.

Keywords: honey bee / nestmate recognition / guard bee / environmental cue / floral oil

Correspondence and reprints: Stephen G. Downs

Copyright INRA/DIB/AGIB/EDP Sciences