, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 851-860

Semiochemicals of the honeybee queen mandibular glands

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The ontogeny of the five queen mandibular gland semiochemicals that initiate and maintain the retinue behavior of worker honeybees was investigated by quantitative splitless capillary gas chromatography. No detectable pheromone is present at the time of eclosion, but decenoic acid levels build up rapidly during the first week of the queen's life. Two aromatic components attain detectable levels later, with the more plentiful methylp-hydroxybenzoate preceding the 4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenylethanol. Pheromone levels are maximal in mature, mated, laying queens. The ratio of (R,E)-(−)-9-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid to the (S,E)-(+) enantiomer increases with the age of the queen. Pheromone levels in queen mandibular glands are largely unaffected by queen banking, restraint with workers in mailing cages, and limited storage on dry ice. All major body parts of typical queens, especially the head and legs, have sufficient mandibular exudate to be highly attractive to worker bees.