Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 811–821 | Cite as

Population differentiation in female sex pheromone and male preferences in a solitary bee

  • Nicolas J. Vereecken
  • Jim Mant
  • Florian P. Schiestl
Original Article


Population differentiation in female mating signals and associated male preferences can drive reproductive isolation among segregated populations. We tested this assumption by investigating intraspecific variation in female sex pheromone and associated male odour preferences among distant populations in the solitary bee Colletes cunicularius (L.) by using quantitative gas chromatography and by performing field bioassays with synthetic blends of key sex pheromone compounds. We found significant differences in sex pheromone blends among the bee populations, and the divergence in odour blends correlated positively with geographic distance, suggesting that genetic divergence among distant populations can affect sex pheromone chemistry. Our behavioural experiments, however, demonstrate that synthetic copies of allopatric female sex pheromones were cross-attractive to patrolling males from distant populations, making reproductive isolation by non-recognition of mating signals among populations unlikely. Our data also show that patrolling male bees from different populations preferred odour types from allopatric populations at the two sites of bioassays. These male preferences are not expected to select for changes in the female sex pheromone, but may influence the evolution of floral odour in sexually deceptive orchids of the genus Ophrys that are pollinated by C. cunicularius males.


Colletes cunicularius Population differentiation Odour preferences Ophrys orchids Pollination by sexual deception 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas J. Vereecken
    • 1
  • Jim Mant
    • 2
  • Florian P. Schiestl
    • 2
  1. 1.Behavioural and Evolutionary EcologyFree University of Brussels CP 160/12BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Plant Ecological GeneticsInstitute for Integrative BiologyZurichSwitzerland

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