The Chemical Basis for Nestmate Recognition and Mate Discrimination in Social Insects

  • Brian H. Smith
  • Michael D. Breed


In this chapter we discuss the chemical basis for nestmate recognition in social insects. Animals that live in family groups are often able to discriminate family members from non-family members. For example, humans and other mammals can use a variety of cues—visual, auditory, and perhaps olfactory—to learn the identities of family members. Birds, on the other hand, rely primarily on auditory cues (Beecher, 1988). While any phenotypic trait that is associated with group membership could be utilized in nestmate recognition, studies of social insects have shown that they depend solely on olfactory cues to discriminate family members from other conspecifics.


Social Insect Cuticular Hydrocarbon Floral Scent Macrocyclic Lactone Nestmate Recognition 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian H. Smith
    • 1
  • Michael D. Breed
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyOhio State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic BiologyUniversity of ColoradoUSA

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