Free Access
Volume 32, Number 3, May-June 2001
Page(s) 265 - 274
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2001128

Apidologie 32 (2001) 265-274

Honeybees discriminate cuticular waxes based on esters and polar components

Birgit Fröhlicha, Markus Riederera and Jürgen Tautzb

a  Julius-von-Sachs-Institut für Biowissenschaften mit Botanischem Garten, Lehrstuhl für Botanik II, Ökophysiologie und Vegetationsökologie, Universität Würzburg, Julius-von-Sachs-Platz 3, 97082 Würzburg, Germany
b  Theodor-Boveri-Institut für Biowissenschaften, Lehrstuhl für Zoologie II, Verhaltensphysiologie und Soziobiologie, Universität Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany

(Received 15 November 2000; accepted 5 March 2001)

Quantitative chemical analyses of cuticular waxes of the honeybee Apis mellifera with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry showed significant differences in the chemical composition of cuticular waxes from drones and workers performing different tasks. We used the proboscis extension reflex to test the ability of bees to discriminate between these cuticular waxes. Differentially conditioned bees significantly discriminated between cuticular waxes of drones, food storers, foragers and queen attenders. We found that the esters and polar components in the cuticular waxes provide the discriminative cues for the insects.

Key words: Apis mellifera / cuticular wax / chemic

Correspondence and reprints: Jürgen Tautz

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2001