Behavioral Activity of Hydrocarbons Emitted by Honeybee Waggle Dancers
Waggle-dancing honeybee foragers emit four hydrocarbons that have been shown to stimulate colony foraging by reactivating experienced foragers and increasing the number of recruitment dances. These hydrocarbons, the alkanes tricosane and pentacosane, and the alkenes (Z)-9-tricosene and (Z)-9-pentacosene, are part of the array of social insects cuticular lipids which have been well studied in the context of nestmate recognition. This study seeks to determine which of the dance hydrocarbons produce the behavioral responses of forager bees by using a binary choice behavioral assay for attraction or repulsion to the volatile phase of the dance compounds. We found no significant deviation from random choice for single dance compounds and pairs of compounds, but bees were significantly attracted to a mixture of the three compounds (Z)-9-tricosene, tricosane, and pentacosane. These results suggest synergy among the waggle-dance hydrocarbons, which was unexpected based on previous research where, in the context of nestmate recognition, alkenes have been shown to play a key role in eliciting behavioral responses. Synergy among the waggle-dance hydrocarbons may provide specificity that facilitates adaptive, context-specific behavioral responses to this subset of cuticular hydrocarbons.
KeywordsHoneybee waggle dance cuticular hydrocarbon semiochemical foraging recruitment context-specific response
We would like to thank Erin Crehan, Adalyne Arafet, and Virginia Rock for their indispensable help collecting data for this study. NM and TC were supported by the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in the Sciences and the William Paterson University Student Research and Creative Expression Program. DG was supported by the William Paterson University Assigned Release Time Program.
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