Free access
Volume 35, Number 5, September-October 2004
Page(s) 461 - 468
Apidologie 35 (2004) 461-468
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2004040

Olfactory cues and Vespula wasp recognition by honey bee guards

Matthew J. Wood and Francis L.W. Ratnieks

Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Evolution and Behaviour Group, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

(Received 12 June 2003; revised 12 December 2003; accepted 29 December 2003)

Abstract - Guard honey bees patrol the entrance to the nest and are thought to recognise nestmates by cuticular hydrocarbons. We aimed to determine whether honey bee guards can recognise predatory common wasps Vespula vulgaris and nestmates by olfactory cues. Odours were transferred between both honey bees and wasps and the responses of guards to controlled introductions monitored. When controlling for the species of introduced insect, the transferred odour was a predictor of aggressive attacks on both bees and wasps. Carriers of incongruous, allospecific odours were antennated by more guards than carriers of conspecific odours. Olfactory cues were, therefore, transferred and guards responded not only to odour per se but also odour incongruity. Olfactory cues may therefore be important in predator recognition by honey bee guards.

Key words: Apis mellifera / guard behaviour / olfactory cue / predator recognition / common wasp Vespula vulgaris

Corresponding author: Matthew J. Wood

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004