Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 11, pp 2731-2745

First online:

Pheromone Communication in the Honeybee (Apis mellifera L.)

  • Keith N. SlessorAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Simon Fraser University
  • , Mark L. WinstonAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University
  • , Yves Le ConteAffiliated withLaboratoire de Biologie de l'Abeille, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, UMR 406 INRA/UAPV Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Recent studies have demonstrated a remarkable and unexpected complexity in social insect pheromone communication, particularly for honeybees (Apis mellifera L.). The intricate interactions characteristic of social insects demand a complex language, based on specialized chemical signals that provide a syntax that is deeper in complexity and richer in nuance than previously imagined. Here, we discuss this rapidly evolving field for honeybees, the only social insect for which any primer pheromones have been identified. Novel research has demonstrated the importance of complexity, synergy, context, and dose, mediated through spatial and temporal pheromone distribution, and has revealed an unprecedented wealth of identified semiochemicals and functions. These new results demand fresh terminology, and we propose adding “colony pheromone” and “passenger pheromone” to the current terms sociochemical, releaser, and primer pheromone to better encompass our growing understanding of chemical communication in social insects.

Key Words

Apis mellifera honeybee social insect chemical communication pheromone chemoecology