A chemical signal from queen bee glands lets the female worker bees know that her mating dalliances were successful, and hint at just how fruitful they were, according to a study published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS One.
The honeybee, Apis mellifera, is equipped with one of the most complex chemical signaling systems in nature, with multiple pheromones controlling the social organization of the hive. They can encourage foraging, attract mates, keep new queens from being reared, and even change the population composition of the hive and alter the gene expression of worker bees...
A team of entomologists from Penn State, North Carolina State and Tel Aviv universities examined chemical changes of pheromones from isolated aspects of the mating process, and from various mating outcomes, then tested how worker bees reacted to these chemicals.
Results suggest that the composition of these pheromones changed, depending on the queen bee’s physiological state, but so did worker bee response. Workers exhibited the strongest attraction to the pheromones from highly inseminated queens, compared with those injected with less semen or with plain saline or with those that were virgins.
“It looks like the queen is not only saying, ‘OK, I’m here,’ but she’s also telling the workers that she’s a mated queen, and that she’s either poorly or well mated -- which is pretty important, because she uses the pheromones to regulate the social organization of the hive,” said Penn State University entomologist Elina L. Niño, lead author of the study.
The queen mandibular pheromone induces female workers to form a retinue around the queen, a group contact that helps spread the chemicals throughout the colony.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment