, Volume 91, Issue 5, pp 232–236 | Cite as

Conservation of Bio synthetic pheromone pathways in honeybees Apis

Short Communication


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.



This study was funded by a NERC standard grant (GR3/12816) and was also supported in part by the European Community’s ‘Improving Human Potential’ Programme under contract HPRN-CT99/00052, INSECTS. The experiments comply with the current laws of the country where the study was carried out. Thanks go to Ben Oldroyd of Sydney University, for comments, and Siriwat Wongsiri of Chulalongkorn University for sending samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Chemical Ecology Group, School of Chemistry and Physics, Lennard-Jones LaboratoriesKeele UniversityStaffordshireUK

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