Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 190, Issue 3, pp 233–239 | Cite as

A stingless bee uses labial gland secretions for scent trail communication (Trigona recursa Smith 1863)

  • S. JarauEmail author
  • M. Hrncir
  • R. Zucchi
  • F. G. Barth
Original Paper


The pheromones used by several species of stingless bees for scent trail communication are generally assumed to be produced by the mandibular glands. Here we present strong evidence that in Trigona recursa these pheromones originate from the labial glands, which are well developed in the heads of foragers. Analysis of the behavior involved in scent marking shows that a bee extends her proboscis and rubs it over the substrate. A single scent marking event lasts for 0.59±0.21 s while the bee runs a stretch of 1.04±0.37 cm on a leaf. According to choice experiments the bees are attracted by a feeder baited with labial gland extract (84.2±6% of the bees choose this feeder) but repelled from a feeder baited with mandibular gland extract (only 27.5±13.1% of the bees choose this feeder). They do not discriminate between two clean feeders (49.6±3% of the bees at a feeder). 87±5.1% of bees already feeding leave the feeder after the application of mandibular gland extract whereas only 6.2±4.9% and 2.6±4% do so when labial gland extract or pure solvent was applied.


Chemical communication Labial glands Scent trails Stingless bees Trigona 



We are very grateful to Sidnei Mateus for his valuable help in finding and collecting the bee nests in Pedregulho. This study was supported by grant P-14328 of the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) to F.G.B. This work complies with the current laws of Brazil where the experiments were carried out.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biocenter, Institute of ZoologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Experimental EcologyUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  3. 3.FFCLRP, Department of BiologyUniversity of São PauloRibeirão PretoBrazil

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