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1.  Reproductive competition in the bumble-bee Bombus terrestris: do workers advertise sterility? 
Reproductive competition in social insects is generally mediated through specific fertility pheromones. By analysing Dufour's gland secretion in queens and workers of Bombus terrestris under varying social conditions, we demonstrate here that the volatile constituents of the secretion exhibit a context-dependent composition. The secretion of egg-laying queens is composed of a series of aliphatic hydrocarbons (alkanes and alkenes), while that of sterile workers contains in addition octyl esters, dominated by octyl hexadecanoate and octyl oleate. These esters disappear in workers with developed ovaries, whether queenright (QR) or queenless (QL), rendering their secretion queen-like. This constitutes an unusual case in which the sterile caste, rather than the fertile one, possesses extra components. Individually isolated (socially deprived) workers developed ovaries successfully, but failed to oviposit, and still possessed the octyl esters. Thus, whereas social interactions are not needed in order to develop ovaries, they appear essential for oviposition and compositional changes in Dufour's gland secretion (ester disappearance). The apparent link between high ester levels and an inability to lay eggs lends credence to the hypothesis that these esters signal functional sterility. We hypothesize that by producing a sterility-specific secretion, workers signal that ‘I am out of the competition’, and therefore are not attacked, either by the queen or by the reproductive workers. This enables proper colony function and brood care, in particular sexual brood, even under the chaotic conditions of the competition phase.
PMCID: PMC2660966  PMID: 19129137
Bombus terrestris; Dufour gland; reproduction; workers' sterility; fertility signals
2.  Enfleurage, lipid recycling and the origin of perfume collection in orchid bees 
Enfleurage, the extraction of elusive floral scents with the help of a lipophilic carrier (grease), is widely used in the perfume industry. Male neotropical orchid bees (Euglossini), which accumulate exogenous fragrances as pheromone analogues, use a similar technique. To collect fragrances, the bees apply large amounts of straight-chain lipids to odoriferous surfaces from their cephalic labial glands, which dissolve the volatiles, and the mixture is then transferred to voluminous hind-leg pockets. Here, we show that males do in fact operate a lipid conveyor belt to accumulate and concentrate their perfume. From the hind-leg pockets of caged male Euglossa viridissima, deuterated derivatives of carrier lipids were consecutively sequestered, shuttled back to the labial glands and reused on consecutive bouts of fragrance collection. Such lipid cycling is instrumental in creating complex perfume bouquets. Furthermore, we found that labial glands of male orchid bees are strikingly similar to those of scent-marking male bumblebees in terms of size, form and structure. This, and a prominent overlap in secretory products, led us to propose that perfume collection evolved from scent-marking in ancestral corbiculate bees.
PMCID: PMC2288683  PMID: 17848369
fragrance collection; scent-marking; labial gland; pheromone analogue; volatile sampling; bumble-bees
3.  Spitting out information: Trigona bees deposit saliva to signal resource locations 
Stingless bees of the species Trigona spinipes (Fabricius 1793) use their saliva to lay scent trails communicating the location of profitable food sources. Extracts of the cephalic labial glands of the salivary system (not the mandibular glands, however) contain a large amount (approx. 74%) of octyl octanoate. This ester is also found on the scent-marked substrates at the feeding site. We demonstrate octyl octanoate to be a single compound pheromone which induces full trail following behaviour. The identification of the trail pheromone in this widely distributed bee makes it an ideal organism for studying the mechanism of trail following in a day flying insect.
PMCID: PMC2093984  PMID: 17251108
trail pheromone; communication; stingless bees; foraging; salivary glands
4.  An Inhibitory Sex Pheromone Tastes Bitter for Drosophila Males 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(8):e661.
Sexual behavior requires animals to distinguish between the sexes and to respond appropriately to each of them. In Drosophila melanogaster, as in many insects, cuticular hydrocarbons are thought to be involved in sex recognition and in mating behavior, but there is no direct neuronal evidence of their pheromonal effect. Using behavioral and electrophysiological measures of responses to natural and synthetic compounds, we show that Z-7-tricosene, a Drosophila male cuticular hydrocarbon, acts as a sex pheromone and inhibits male-male courtship. These data provide the first direct demonstration that an insect cuticular hydrocarbon is detected as a sex pheromone. Intriguingly, we show that a particular type of gustatory neurons of the labial palps respond both to Z-7-tricosene and to bitter stimuli. Cross-adaptation between Z-7-tricosene and bitter stimuli further indicates that these two very different substances are processed by the same neural pathways. Furthermore, the two substances induced similar behavioral responses both in courtship and feeding tests. We conclude that the inhibitory pheromone tastes bitter to the fly.
PMCID: PMC1937024  PMID: 17710124

Results 1-4 (4)