Olfactory attraction of Scaptotrigona mexicana drones to their virgin queen volatiles
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Drone congregations are a ubiquitous phenomenon described in several species of stingless bees and extensively studied in the honeybee, Apis mellifera. In meliponaries of Scaptotrigona mexicana, it is usual to observe drones forming such congregations close to the nests, apparently waiting for a virgin queen for mating. We hypothesize that drones of this species, similarly to those of A. mellifera and the stingless bee Scaptotrigona postica, use olfactory signals to detect queens and evaluate their reproductive status. In both field and laboratory experiments, our results showed that S. mexicana drones were able to differentiate between virgin and physogastric queens. It seems that this ability to discriminate depends on the amount of 2-alcohols, since even though no differences were observed in the qualitative content between virgin and physogastric queens, these compounds were found in larger quantities in the virgin queens. Attraction is due to compounds found in the queen head, mainly 2-alcohols, where 2-nonanol is the most significant for drone attraction in field and laboratory bioassays and for eliciting a high drone antennal response.
KeywordsScaptotrigona mexicana drones behavior EAG
We thank Armando Virgen and Antonio Santiesteban for technical assistance and CONACYT (Mexico) for economic support provided by the research grant 52847.
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