Free Access
Volume 38, Number 2, March-April 2007
Page(s) 164 - 170
Published online 10 February 2007
Apidologie 38 (2007) 164-170
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2006067

Volatiles of foraging honeybees Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae) and their potential role as semiochemicals

Thomas Schmitta, b, c, Gudrun Herznera, d, Bernhard Weckerleb, Peter Schreierb and Erhard Strohma, d

a  Theodor-Boveri-Institut für Biowissenschaften, Zoologie III, Biozentrum, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
b  Lehrstuhl für Lebensmittelchemie, Chemiezentrum, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
c  Abteilung für Evolutionsbiologie und Ökologie der Tiere, Biologie I (Zoologie), Hauptstr. 1, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
d  Abteilung für Zoologie, Universität Regensburg, 93040 Regensburg, Germany

(Received 20 April 2006 - Revised 16 August 2006 - Accepted 16 August 2006 - Published online 10 February 2007)

Abstract - Nestmate and kin recognition play a major role in maintaining the integrity of social insect colonies. In Apis mellifera it has been suggested that recognition of nestmates is mediated by contact chemoreception. However, there is evidence that volatiles emanating from honeybee workers might transmit recognition cues. These volatiles from the cuticle might also be used as kairomones by females of the European beewolf Philanthus triangulum to identify their prey. Here we analysed which compounds occurs on the cuticle of honeybee workers. Additionally, we used a foraging arena that allows the sequestration of volatiles from undisturbed foraging honeybees with a SPME-fibre, followed by GC-MS analyses. We could detect hydrocarbons with a chain length of up to 29 C and some new compounds in the headspace of foraging honeybees. We also found (Z)-11-eicosen-1-ol on the cuticle and in the headspace of honeybee workers, thus, it might be used as a kairomone by females of the European beewolf.

Key words: Apis mellifera / cuticular hydrocarbon / nestmate recognition / volatiles / Philanthus triangulum / kairomone / (Z)-11-eicosen-1-ol

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© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2007