Free access
Volume 36, Number 2, April-June 2005
the neglected gender - males in bees
Page(s) 231 - 244
Published online 01 June 2005
Apidologie 36 (2005) 231-244
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2005012

She's my girl - male accessory gland products and their function in the reproductive biology of social bees

Nínive Aguiar Colonelloa and Klaus Hartfelderb

a  Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto Universidade de São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP, 14040-900, Brazil
b  Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP, 14040-900, Brazil

(Received 18 October 2004 - Revised 8 December 2004 - Accepted 10 December 2004; Published online: 1 June 2005)

Abstract - Male accessory gland products have become a major issue in insect reproduction. They are a means of transport for sperm and can form a mating plug, and also have specific compounds that can modify the behavior and physiology of mated females. We briefly review the structure and function of accessory gland products in insects, especially in the fruitfly and some orthopterans and lepidopterans, and draw parallels to what is currently known in social bees. The structure of the mating sign differs considerably in this group. In bumble bees it consists of a viscous mass of a dipeptide and fatty acids, with linoleic acid affecting female behavior. The honey bees show considerable species-specific variation in their mating signs. In the cavity-dwelling species it is the mucus gland which provides the mass of the mating sign, and this glands undergoes a hormonally controlled sexual maturation in its program of protein synthesis. The stingless bees lack mucus glands altogether, and their mating sign consists of the ruptured genital capsule of the male. We discuss the structure of the mating sign and of its components in relation to the mating and reproductive biology of these groups of highly eusocial bees.

Key words: honeybee / bumblebee / Meliponini / reproductive tract / mating sign / Apis / Bombus

Corresponding author: Klaus Hartfelder

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2005