Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 167–181 | Cite as

Juvenile Hormone III Influences Task-Specific Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profile Changes in the Ant Myrmicaria eumenoides

  • F. Lengyel
  • S. A. Westerlund
  • M. Kaib


We investigated the influence of juvenile hormones (JH) on the composition of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) and the division of labor in colonies of the African ant Myrmicaria eumenoides. CHCs have long been implicated in nestmate recognition in social insect colonies. In M. eumenoides, the CHC profiles also vary with the task performed from brood-tender-type to forager type. The endocrine factors regulating the task allocation as well as the intracolonial recognition cues are not well understood, but JHs are prime candidates. Only JH III was identified in the hemolymph of M. eumenoides workers. Foragers had significantly higher JH III titers than brood tenders. The application of exogenous JH III and a JH analogue (methoprene) to M. eumenoides workers did not result in an observable acceleration of task change in our study. However, longevity of the focus workers, and thus the observational period, was reduced by the applications. Changes from a brood-tender-type to a forager-type CHC profile were accelerated by the application of JH III and methoprene, resulting in brood-tending workers that displayed forager-type CHC profiles. We present the first data supporting that recognition cues of an eusocial Hymenopteran are influenced by JH III, which could thus play a major role in the regulation of the dynamic nature of social insect colonies. JH III is connected to at least two key processes: the acceleration of CHC changes and the more long-term modulation of task shifting. Moreover, this indicates that changes in CHC recognition cues do not trigger task allocation in social insect colonies.


Cuticular hydrocarbons Division of labor Juvenile hormone Social insects Task 



We thank Antje Halwas for help and support during the investigations, and we are grateful to Konrad Fiedler for advice regarding statistical problems. This study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft as part of the Graduiertenkolleg 678 at the University of Bayreuth.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal PhysiologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology IUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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