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Honeybees possess a structurally diverse and functionally redundant set of queen pheromones.


ABSTRACT: Queen pheromones, which signal the presence of a fertile queen and induce workers to remain sterile, play a key role in regulating reproductive division of labour in insect societies. In the honeybee, volatiles produced by the queen's mandibular glands have been argued to act as the primary sterility-inducing pheromones. This contrasts with evidence from other groups of social insects, where specific queen-characteristic hydrocarbons present on the cuticle act as conserved queen signals. This led us to hypothesize that honeybee queens might also employ cuticular pheromones to stop workers from reproducing. Here, we support this hypothesis with the results of bioassays with synthetic blends of queen-characteristic alkenes, esters and carboxylic acids. We show that all these compound classes suppress worker ovary development, and that one of the blends of esters that we used was as effective as the queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) mix. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the two main QMP compounds 9-ODA and 9-HDA tested individually were as effective as the blend of all four major QMP compounds, suggesting considerable signal redundancy. Possible adaptive reasons for the observed complexity of the honeybee queen signal mix are discussed.

SUBMITTER: Princen SA 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6599994 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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