Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 189, Issue 1, pp 47–51 | Cite as

Bumble bees alert to food with pheromone from tergal gland

  • A. DornhausEmail author
  • A. Brockmann
  • L. Chittka
Original Paper


Foragers of Bombus terrestris are able to alert their nestmates to the presence of food sources. It has been supposed that this happens at least partially through the distribution of a pheromone inside the nest. We substantiate this claim using a behavioral test in which an alerting signal is transmitted from one colony to another by long distance air transport, so excluding all other modalities of information exchange. We then investigated the source of the pheromone and were able to show that a hexane extract from tergites V–VII of bumble bee workers elicits higher activity, like a successful forager does. Extracts from other glands, such as the mandibular, labial, hypopharyngeal, and Dufour's gland as well as extracts from other parts of the cuticle had no effect. This suggests that bumble bees possess a pheromone-producing gland, similar to the Nasanov gland in honey bees. Indeed, an extract from the honey bee Nasanov gland also proved to alert bumblebee workers, suggesting a possible homology of the glands.


Alerting Bombus Communication Foraging Tergal glands 



We wish to thank the many motivated students who contributed to the experimental results reported in this paper, in particular Daniel Lüftenegger. This project was funded by DFG grants GRK 200, SFB 554 and Ch 147/3-1.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioral Physiology and SociobiologyUniversity of WürzburgGermany
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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