Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 631–641 | Cite as

Robber bees (Lestrimelitta limao) and their host chemical and visual cues in nest defense byTrigona (Tetragonisca) angustula (Apidae: Meliponinae)

  • Dieter Wittmann
  • Rainer Radtke
  • Jochen Zeil
  • Gunther Lübke
  • Wittko Francke
Article

Abstract

The nest of the stingless bee,Trigona (Tetragonisca) angustula, is guarded by bees positioned in the nest entrance and others hovering in front of it. Hovering guard bees track returning foragers sideways along the last 10 cm in front of the nest, but intercept and incapacitate nest intruders by clinging with mandibles to wings and legs. When attacked by the cleptobiotic stingless beeLestrimelitta limao, the colony strengthens its aerial defense with hundreds of additional hoverers. To test our hypothesis that this reaction is due to interspecific chemical communication based on kairomone effects, we presented synthetic cephalic volatiles of both species at the nest entrance and counted the number of bees leaving the nest and taking up hovering positions. We conclude that guard bees recognizeL. limao by the major terpenoids of their volatile cephalic secretions, geranial, neral (=citral) and 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one; other components may fine-tune this recognition. The effect of chemical stimuli is not significantly enhanced by combination with a dummy ofL. limao. Guard bees, we hypothesize, respond to this kairomone by secreting a species specific alarm pheromone; a major component of this pheromone, benzaldehyde, recruits additional bees to defend the nest.

Key words

Cephalic volatiles kairomone nest defense Lestrimelitta limao Trigona (Tetragonisca) angustula stingless bees Hymenoptera Meliponini Apidae 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dieter Wittmann
    • 1
  • Rainer Radtke
    • 1
  • Jochen Zeil
    • 2
  • Gunther Lübke
    • 3
  • Wittko Francke
    • 3
  1. 1.Zoologisches Institut (Entwicklungsphysiologie) der UniversitätTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Biologisches Institut (Biokybernetik) der UniversitätTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Institut für Organische Chemie und Biochemie Universität HamburgHamburg 13Germany

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