Conservation of Bio synthetic pheromone pathways in honeybees Apis
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Social insects use complex chemical communication systems to govern many aspects of their life. We studied chemical changes in Dufour’s gland secretions associated with ovary development in several genotypes of honeybees. We found that C28–C38 esters were associated only with cavity nesting honeybee queens, while the alcohol eicosenol was associated only with their non-laying workers. In contrast, both egg-laying anarchistic workers and all parasitic Cape workers from queenright colonies showed the typical queen pattern (i.e. esters present and eicosenol absent), while egg-laying wild-type and anarchistic workers in queenless colonies showed an intermediate pattern, producing both esters and eicosenol but at intermediate levels. Furthermore, neither esters nor eicosenol were found in aerial nesting honeybee species. Both esters and eicosenol are biosynthetically similar compounds since both are recognizable products of fatty acid biosynthesis. Therefore, we propose that in honeybees the biosynthesis of esters and eicosenol in the Dufour’s gland is caste-regulated and this pathway has been conserved over evolutionary time.