Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 745–756

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


  • Robert E. PageJr.
    • Department of EntomologyUniversity of California
  • Robert A. Metcalf
    • LHC-NCI, National Institutes of Health
  • Robert L. Metcalf
    • Department of EntomologyUniversity of Illinois
  • Eric H. EricksonJr.
    • USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Unit
  • Richard L. Lampman
    • Department of EntomologyUniversity of Illinois

DOI: 10.1007/BF00994197

Cite this article as:
Page, R.E., Metcalf, R.A., Metcalf, R.L. et al. J Chem Ecol (1991) 17: 745. doi:10.1007/BF00994197


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

HoneybeeApis melliferaHymenopteraApidaehydrocarbonskin recognitiongenetic relatedness
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991