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Reactions of five species of stingless bees to some volatile chemicals and to other species of bees

Journal of Insect Physiology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0022-1910(75)90153-5
  • Chemistry


Abstract Trigona pectoralis and T. mexicana attacked when volatile chemicals that have been identified from their heads were presented at the nest entrance; mixtures approximating the composition of the head extracts elicited stronger reactions than did any of the single chemicals. Alarm pheromones of T. pectoralis occur in approximately equal concentrations in the mandibular glands and the remainder of the heads; other alarm pheromones occur in small concentrations in the abdomen. Three other species of stingless bees gave defensive reactions when presented with the mixture of chemicals, with some of the single chemicals, with living or freshly killed T. pectoralis, or with the heads of that species. Living or freshly killed Lestrimelitta limao, which are known to live by robbing other bees, elicited strong defence reactions from all species; citral, the major volatile component of the head extract of L. limao, gave similar results. Variations in the strength of reactions of bees to other species and to a wide variety of volatile chemicals led to the conclusion that bees probably learn to recognize the odour of other species that rob from their nests, and that the pheromones of the robbing species are allomones that recruit the victims to the defence of the nest. It is postulated that the reactions to some of the chemicals developed because the bees had been exposed to enemies that contained the chemicals. It is often impossible to decide whether the reactions of bees to a chemical result from an inability to distinguish the chemical from some other, or from the properties and usual origin of the chemical itself. Some of the problems that arise from the reactions of the bees, and particularly from their reactions to 2-heptanone, geraniol, and benzoic acid, are discussed.

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