Journal of Chemical Ecology

, 37:1027 | Cite as

Effects of Instrumental Insemination and Insemination Quantity on Dufour’s Gland Chemical Profiles and Vitellogenin Expression in Honey Bee Queens (Apis mellifera)

  • Freddie-Jeanne RichardEmail author
  • Coby Schal
  • David R. Tarpy
  • Christina M. Grozinger


Honey bee queens (Apis mellifera) mate in their early adult lives with a variable number of males (drones). Mating stimulates dramatic changes in queen behavior, physiology, gene expression, and pheromone production. Here, we used virgin, single drone- (SDI), and multi-drone- (MDI) inseminated queens to study the effects of instrumental insemination and insemination quantity on the pheromone profiles of the Dufour’s gland, and the expression of the egg-yolk protein, vitellogenin, in the fat body. Age, environmental conditions, and genetic background of the queens were standardized to specifically characterize the effects of these treatments. Our data demonstrate that insemination and insemination quantity significantly affect the chemical profiles of the Dufour’s gland secretion. Moreover, workers were more attracted to Dufour’s gland extract from inseminated queens compared to virgins, and to the extract of MDI queens compared to extract of SDI queens. However, while there were differences in the amounts of some esters between MDI queens and the other groups, it appears that the differences in behavioral responses were elicited by subtle changes in the overall chemical profiles rather than dramatic changes in specific individual chemicals. We also found a decrease in vitellogenin gene expression in the fat body of the MDI queens, which is negatively correlated with the quantities of Dufour’s gland content. The possible explanations of this reduction are discussed.

Key Words

Chemical ecology Gene expression Behavior Social insects Pheromone 



We thank Josh Summers, Jennifer Keller, and Joe Flowers for beekeeping assistance, and Kelly Hutcherson and Cynthia Rouf for assistance in the field. We thank the Grozinger, the Tarpy and the Schal research groups for helpful discussions and comments on the manuscript. We thank Gilles Bosquet for the design of Fig. 1. FJR was supported by post-doctoral fellowships from the Conseil Regional d’Indre et Loire, France, and the North Carolina State University WM Keck Center for Behavioral Biology. This research was supported by a United State Department of Agriculture-National Research Initiative grant to CMG and DRT (2006-35607-16625).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Freddie-Jeanne Richard
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Coby Schal
    • 1
    • 3
  • David R. Tarpy
    • 1
    • 3
  • Christina M. Grozinger
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeneticsNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral BiologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  4. 4.Laboratoire Ecologie Evolution Symbiose, UMR CNRS 6556University of PoitiersPoitiersFrance
  5. 5.Department of Entomology, Center for Pollinator Research, Center for Chemical Ecology, Huck Institutes of the Life SciencesPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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