Pheromones play a critical role in shaping societies of social insects, including honey bees, Apis mellifera. While diverse functions have been ascribed to queen- and worker-produced compounds, few studies have explored the identity and function of male-produced (drone) compounds. However, several lines of evidence suggest that drones engage in a variety of social interactions inside and outside of the colony. Here we elucidate the chemical composition of extracts of the drone mandibular gland, and test the hypothesis that compounds produced in these glands, or a synthetic blend consisting of the six main compounds, mediate drone social interactions in and out of the colony. Drone mandibular glands primarily produce a blend of saturated, unsaturated and methyl branched fatty acids ranging in chain length from nonanoic to docosanoic acids, and both gland extracts and synthetic blends of these chemicals serve to attract drones outside of the hive, but do not attract workers inside the hive. These studies shed light on the role drones and drone-produced chemicals have on mediating social interactions with other drones and highlight their potential importance in communicating with other castes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics