, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 185–195 | Cite as

Characterization of cuticular hydrocarbons according to colony duties in the stingless bee Tetragonisca angustula

  • María Sol Balbuena
  • Andrés González
  • Walter M. Farina
Original article


In social insects, task-related recognition plays an important role in the coordination and cohesion between members of the colony. Tetragonisca angustula is an eusocial stingless bee that presents a sophisticated system of defense involving two complementary groups of guards: hovering and standing guards. We identified, quantified, and compared the cuticular compounds of worker bees captured within the nest, and bees performing tasks outside: foragers and guards. In addition to cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), we identified abundant di- and triterpenes. Among the CHCs, we found a mixture of n-alkanes, methyl-branched alkanes, alkenes, and alkadienes. Significant differences in the relative abundance of CHCs between behavioral groups were found. Particularly, guards present high amounts of branched alkanes relative to nest bees and foragers. Differential CHC profiles associated with behavioral groups could imply a mechanism for caste recognition.


stingless bees Tetragonisca angustula cuticular hydrocarbons task-related recognition 



We thank Diego Vázquez for helping us with the statistical analysis. This study was partly supported by grants from Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCYT), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Universidad de la República.

Author’s contributions

MSB, AG, and WMF conceived and designed the experiments. MSB performed the experiments. AG performed chemical analysis. MSB, AG, and WMF performed data analysis. MSB, AG, and WMF drafted the manuscript. All authors revised and commented on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB and Springer-Verlag France SAS 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • María Sol Balbuena
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrés González
    • 3
  • Walter M. Farina
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Insectos Sociales. Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto de Fisiología, Biología Molecular y Neurociencias (IFIBYNE)CONICET-Universidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Laboratorio de Ecología Química, Facultad de QuímicaUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay

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