Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 12, pp 2791–2804 | Cite as

Feeding Responses of Free-flying Honeybees to Secondary Compounds Mimicking Floral Nectars

  • Natarajan SingaravelanEmail author
  • Gidi Nee'man
  • Moshe Inbar
  • Ido Izhaki


The role of secondary compounds (SC) in deterring herbivores and pathogens from vegetative parts of plants is well established, whereas their role in plant reproductive organs such as floral nectar is unclear. The present study aimed to reveal the response of free-flying honeybees to naturally occurring concentrations of four SC in floral nectar. We selected nicotine, anabasine, caffeine, and amygdalin, all of which are found in nectar of various plants. In repeated paired-choice experiments, we offered 20% sucrose solution as control along with test solutions of 20% sucrose with various concentrations of the above SC. Except for anabasine, naturally occurring concentrations of SC did not have a deterring effect. Furthermore, low concentrations of nicotine and caffeine elicited a significant feeding preference. SC can, therefore, be regarded as postingestive stimulants to pollinators, indicating that the psychoactive alkaloids in nectar may be a part of their mutualistic reward. Further studies are needed to test our hypothesis that psychoactive alkaloids in nectar impose dependence or addiction effects on pollinators.

Key Words

Nectar secondary compounds naturally occurring concentrations honeybees attraction deterrence 



This work was supported by a grant from Israel Science Foundation (ISF 600/03) and University of Haifa. We thank three anonymous reviewers for constructive criticisms and comments on earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natarajan Singaravelan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gidi Nee'man
    • 1
  • Moshe Inbar
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ido Izhaki
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Haifa at OranimTivonIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Evolutionary & Environmental BiologyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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