Species-specific attraction to pheromonal analogues in orchid bees

  • Yvonne Zimmermann
  • David W. Roubik
  • Thomas EltzEmail author
Original Article


Male orchid bees (Euglossini) collect fragrances from flowers and other natural sources, a behaviour that has shaped the euglossine pollination syndrome. Males store such chemicals in hind leg pouches and later expose them during courtship display. In the present study, we show that complex bouquets of two sympatric species of Eulaema, E. meriana and E. bombiformis, are chemically distinct. When exposed during bioassays at display perches individual hind leg extracts rapidly and consistently attracted other males of the correct species, even if derived from males of disparate localities (French Guiana and Panama). Conspecific males as well as females of E. bombiformis arrived at natural perch sites only from downwind, and two copulations were observed. Our findings demonstrate that acquired odours mediate exclusive attraction within species and support the idea that such fragrances are pheromone analogues. Their role in acquiring matings and during male–male interaction is discussed.


Chemical communication Odor signal Attractant Euglossini Fragrance 



We thank Oris Acevedo and the entire BCI staff for continuous support during field seasons. The chemical-analytical part of the study was substantiated by Roman Kaiser who analysed reference samples and identified critical fragrance compounds. His help is gratefully acknowledged, as are the valuable discussions with Klaus Lunau and the members of the Sensory Ecology seminar in Düsseldorf. The study was sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (EL 249/2-1)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yvonne Zimmermann
    • 1
  • David W. Roubik
    • 2
  • Thomas Eltz
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology, Sensory Ecology GroupUniversity of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaPanamá

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