, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 157-176

Fragrance Collection, Storage, and Accumulation by Individual Male Orchid Bees

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Individually marked males of two species of Euglossa were sighted repeatedly and over considerable periods of time (up to 44 days) at artificial fragrance baits exposed on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama. Individuals switched between different bait chemicals that are attractive for the respective species, and no bait preferences or individual bait constancy was observed. GC-MS analyses of 153 males of three species showed that individual hind tibiae contain highly variable quantities of a complex and species-specific blend of fragrance compounds, mainly terpenoids and aromatics. In all three species, frequency distributions of individual quantities were strongly skewed towards individuals with small amounts, and individual amount and complexity were positively correlated. Tibial contents of male Euglossa imperialis that were kept alive in a flight cage for 0, 5, 10, or 15 days showed no qualitative or quantitative change over time, suggesting that the fragrances are very efficiently stored in the hind legs. In Euglossa cognata wing wear, an established age correlate of the species, was positively correlated with individual fragrance quantity. Our results suggest that male euglossines forage continuously for a variety of volatiles, store them, and finally acquire large quantities of a complex and specific fragrance bouquet. Both qualitative and quantitative aspects of individual contents are likely to contain information on male phenotypic and genotypic quality.