Original Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 303-307

First online:

Post-mating odor in females of the solitary bee, Andrena nigroaenea (Apoidea, Andrenidae), inhibits male mating behavior

  • F. P. SchiestlAffiliated withInstitute of Zoology, Department of Evolutionary Biology, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria
  • , Manfred AyasseAffiliated withInstitute of Zoology, Department of Evolutionary Biology, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria

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We investigated odor changes and their behavioral significance in the solitary, ground-nesting bee Andrena nigroaenea. We used gas chromatography with electroantennographic detection and performed behavioral tests with males in the field using natural odor samples and synthetic compounds. We found that only cuticle extracts of young females elicited copulation attempts in the males. We demonstrated that among the 17 compounds which triggered electroantennographic responses, all-trans-farnesyl hexanoate and all-trans-farnesol were significantly more abundant in unattractive cuticle extracts of A. nigroaenea females. Dufour’s gland extracts of these females also contained greater amounts of both compounds. In bioassays using synthetic farnesyl hexanoate and farnesol we found that these compounds inhibit copulation behavior in the males. Farnesyl hexanoate is probably synthesized in Dufour’s gland and used by females for lining brood cells. We interpret the semiochemical function of farnesyl hexanoate and its precursor farnesol to have evolved secondarily. As an outcome of sexual selection, it facilitates the discrimination by males of receptive females from nesting and thus already mated individuals. The dual function of these compounds represents an elegant parsimony in the chemical communication system of this insect.

Key words Post-mating odor change Gas chromatography-electroantennographic detection Farnesol Farnesyl hexanoate Sexual selection