Evaluating the Effect of Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Queen Reproductive State on Pheromone-Mediated Interactions with Male Drone Bees

Gabriel Villar, Abraham Hefetz, Christina M. Grozinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens produce pheromones responsible for mediating both male mating behavior and many critical facets of worker social organization within their colony. These pheromones are dynamic multi-component blends, allowing the communication of detailed information. Indeed, variation in the queen’s mating and reproductive state is associated with significant changes in her pheromone profiles, and these different pheromone profiles elicit different behavioral and physiological responses in female workers. Here we evaluate behavioral responses of male drones to the chemical blends produced by two exocrine glands in queens, and determine if the blends and responses are altered by the queen’s mating and reproductive state. We find that drone attraction to the chemical blends of mandibular glands produced by mated, laying queens versus virgin queens is reduced, suggesting that the queens produce a reliable signal of their mating receptivity. Interestingly, while the chemical blends of mating, laying queens and virgins queens largely overlap, mated, laying queens produce a greater number of chemicals and greater quantities of certain chemicals than virgin queens, suggesting that these chemicals may serve to inhibit behavioral responses of drones to mated, laying queens. Thus, our results highlight the importance of considering chemical cues and signals that serve to both stimulate and inhibit behavioral responses during social interactions in animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-597
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2019


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry

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