Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 137–145 | Cite as

Male bumble bee pheromonal components in the scent of deceit pollinated orchids; unrecognized pollinator cues?

  • Irena Valterová
  • Jan Kunze
  • Andreas Gumbert
  • Anna Luxová
  • Ilme Liblikas
  • Blanka Kalinová
  • Anna-Karin Borg-KarlsonEmail author
Original Paper


The pollination of the non-rewarding Orchis pauciflora was studied. The most abundant visitors of O. pauciflora were B. terrestris queens. The fragrance of O. pauciflora inflorescence was dominated by a sesquiterpene (E)-β-farnesene. (E,E)-α-Farnesene, (E)-2,3-dihydrofarnesol, geranylcitronellol, and the monoterpenes limonene and 1,8-cineol were found among less abundant constituents. The sesqui- and diterpenes detected in O. pauciflora fragrance are frequent constituents of male marking pheromones of many bumble bee species. Enantioselective analysis of O. pauciflora scent and B. terrestris male marking pheromone revealed the presence of the (S)-isomer of (E)-2,3-dihydrofarnesol in both samples, and electrophysiological experiments showed that mainly the (S)-isomer activated the antennal receptors. In field experiments, O. pauciflora inflorescences were enriched with the main compound (E)-β-farnesene resulting in significantly increased pollinia export. We here discuss the chemical similarities between orchid and bumble bees and whether the presence of bumble bee male pheromone components in O. pauciflora fragrance increases its fitness.


Bombus (S)-(−)-2,3-dihydrofarnesol Electroantennography Enantioselective GC (E)-β-farnesene Flower scent Male fitness Marking pheromone Orchis 



Solid phase microextraction




Gas chromatography


Two-dimensional gas chromatography


Gas chromatography with electroantennographic detector


Gas chromatography with mass detector


Flame ionization detector



Financial support was achieved from VR, Formas (The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning), KVA (The Royal Academy of Sciences), IVA (The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences), SI (The Swedish Institute) and in part by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (research Project No. Z4 055 0506). We thank Dr. R. Menzel for support and helpful comments, Dr. A. Svatoš for preparation of (S)-(−)-2,3-dihydrofarnesol, and Prof. Pierre Rasmont for his valuable comments on this manuscript. For skilful cultivation of the orchids, Peter Lidbeck at Stockholm University is acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irena Valterová
    • 1
  • Jan Kunze
    • 2
  • Andreas Gumbert
    • 2
  • Anna Luxová
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ilme Liblikas
    • 3
    • 4
  • Blanka Kalinová
    • 1
  • Anna-Karin Borg-Karlson
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Organic Chemistry and BiochemistryAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPragueThe Czech Republic
  2. 2.Institute of Biology – NeurobiologyFree University BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.School of Chemical Science and Engineering, Department of Chemistry, Ecological Chemistry GroupRoyal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden
  4. 4.University of Tartu, Institute of TechnologyTartuEstonia

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