Beyond 9-ODA: SEX Pheromone Communication in the European Honey Bee Apis mellifera L.
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The major component of the mandibular gland secretion of queen honeybees (Apis mellifera L.), 9-ODA ((2E)-9-oxodecenoic acid), has been known for more than 40 yr to function as a long-range sex pheromone, attracting drones at congregation areas and drone flyways. Tests of other mandibular gland components failed to demonstrate attraction. It remained unclear whether these components served any function in mating behavior. We performed dual-choice experiments, using a rotating drone carousel, to test the attractiveness of 9-ODA compared to mixtures of 9-ODA with three other most abundant components in virgin queen mandibular gland secretions: (2E)-9-hydroxydecenoic acid (9-HDA), (2E)-10-hydroxydecenoic acid (10-HDA), and p-hydroxybenzoate (HOB). We found no differences in the number of drones attracted to 9-ODA or the respective mixtures over a distance. However, adding 9-HDA and 10-HDA, or 9-HDA, 10-HDA, and HOB to 9-ODA increased the number of drones making contact with the baited dummy. On the basis of these results, we suggest that at least 9-HDA and 10-HDA are additional components of the sex pheromone blend of A. mellifera.
Key WordsSex pheromone mating behavior mandibular gland honeybee Apis mellifera (2E)-9-oxodecenoic acid (2E)-9-hydroxydecenoic acid (2E)-10-hydrodecenoic acid
We thank G. Eisenmann and N. Schneider, who built the drone carousel, and K. Galmbacher and P. Bernbauer, who helped with data collection. J.S. and A.B. were supported by the German Research Foundation DFG (SFB554 and Graduiertenkolleg 200).
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