Research papers


, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 8-18

First online:

Attraction, deterrence or intoxication of bees (Apis mellifera) by plant allelochemicals

  • Andreas DetzelAffiliated withInstitut für Pharmazeutische Biologie, Universität Heidelberg
  • , Michael WinkAffiliated withInstitut für Pharmazeutische Biologie, Universität Heidelberg

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The influence of 63 dietary allelochemicals (alkaloids, terpenes, glycosides,etc.) on the feeding behaviour of bees (Apis mellifera) was tested in terms of deterrency and attraction. For 39 compounds a deterrent (mostly alkaloids, coumarins and saponins) and for 3 compounds an attractive response (mostly terpenes) was obtained in choice tests, which allowed the calculation of respective ED50-values. Under no-choice conditions, 17 out of 29 allelochemicals caused mortality at concentrations between 0.003 and 0.6%. Especially toxic were alkaloids, saponins, cardiac glycosides and cyanogenic glycosides. These data show that bees which are confronted with plant allelochemicals in nectar and pollen, are not especially adapted (i.e. insensitive) to the plants' defence chemistry. GLC and GLS-MS data are given on the alkaloid composition of nectar and pollen ofBrugmansia aurea, Atropa belladonna andLupinus polyphyllus.

Key words

alkaloids feeding deterrence toxicity nectar pollen allelochemicals chemical defence Hymenoptera honeybee Apis mellifera