Abstract WORKER honey bees, Apis mellifera, are able to discriminate between combs on the basis of genetic similarity to a learned comb. The nestmate recognition cues that they acquire from the comb also have a genetically correlated component. Cues are acquired from comb in very short exposure periods (5 min or less) and can be transferred among bees that are in physical contact. Gas chromatographic analysis demonstrates that bees with exposure to comb have different chemical surface profiles than bees without such exposure. These results support the hypothesis that comb-derived recognition cues are highly important in honey bee nestmate recognition. These cues are at least in part derived from the wax itself, rather than from floral scents that have been absorbed by the wax.