Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 745-756

First online:

Extractable hydrocarbons and kin recognition in honeybee (Apis mellifera L.)

  • Robert E. PageJr.Affiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of California
  • , Robert A. MetcalfAffiliated withLHC-NCI, National Institutes of Health
  • , Robert L. MetcalfAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Illinois
  • , Eric H. EricksonJr.Affiliated withUSDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Unit
  • , Richard L. LampmanAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Illinois

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Hydrocarbons of worker honeybees of known pedigree were extracted and analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Variability in hydrocarbon extracts of individual workers is determined at least in part genetically. Correlations in hydrocarbon composition of extracts were highest among more closely related individuals. Individuals maintained in groups exchange hydrocarbons but still maintain enough self-produced compounds to retain genetically determined individual characteristics. These results demonstrate that extractable hydrocarbons of bees provide sufficiently reliable genetic information to function as labels for use during kin recognition.

Key Words

Honeybee Apis mellifera Hymenoptera Apidae hydrocarbons kin recognition genetic relatedness