, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 211-223

Movement of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) queen mandibular gland pheromone in populous and unpopulous colonies

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The mode of intranest transfer of the honey bee queen mandibular gland pheromone complex (QMP) was investigated in unpopulous and populous, slightly congested colonies, using synthetic QMP containing tritiated 9-keto-2(E)-decenoic acid, one of the QMP components. Radiolabel was rapidly transported from the center to the peripheral regions of the nest, and in a manner consistent with worker to worker transport. Population size and congestion had no effect on the relative rates of movement from the center to the periphery of the nest or on the mean amounts of radiolabel on individual bees. However, a significantly smaller proportion of the workers in the populous colonies received detectable amounts of radiolabel than in the uncongested colonies, and workers carrying especially large amounts of radiolabel were less numerous in the crowded colonies. It is suggested that, at the stage of colony development that the colonies were in, population size has more of an effect on intranest pheromone transmission than does crowding. Interference with pheromone transfer may occur only at higher levels of congestion than were created, and nearer to the reproductive phase of colony development. An alternative hypothesis is that colony crowding does not significantly affect QMP transport and that the onset of reproductive queen rearing may be associated more with changes in worker thresholds of response to QMP.