The pheromones of laying workers in two honeybee sister species: Apis cerana and Apis mellifera


When a honeybee colony loses its queen, workers activate their ovaries and begin to lay eggs. This is accompanied by a shift in their pheromonal bouquet, which becomes more queen like. Workers of the Asian hive bee Apis cerana show unusually high levels of ovary activation and this can be interpreted as evidence for a recent evolutionary arms race between queens and workers over worker reproduction in this species. To further explore this, we compared the rate of pheromonal bouquet change between two honeybee sister species of Apis cerana and Apis mellifera under queenright and queenless conditions. We show that in both species, the pheromonal components HOB, 9-ODA, HVA, 9-HDA, 10-HDAA and 10-HDA have significantly higher amounts in laying workers than in non-laying workers. In the queenright colonies of A. mellifera and A. cerana, the ratios (9-ODA)/(9-ODA + 9-HDA + 10-HDAA + 10-HDA) are not significantly different between the two species, but in queenless A. cerana colonies the ratio is significant higher than in A. mellifera, suggesting that in A. cerana, the workers’ pheromonal bouquet is dominated by the queen compound, 9-ODA. The amount of 9-ODA in laying A. cerana workers increased by over 585% compared with the non-laying workers, that is 6.75 times higher than in A. mellifera where laying workers only had 86% more 9-ODA compared with non-laying workers.

DOI: 10.1007/s00359-012-0710-9

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@article{Tan2012ThePO, title={The pheromones of laying workers in two honeybee sister species: Apis cerana and Apis mellifera}, author={Ken Seng Tan and Mingxian Yang and Zhengwei Wang and Sarah E. Radloff and Christian Walter Werner Pirk}, journal={Journal of Comparative Physiology A}, year={2012}, volume={198}, pages={319-323} }