Wax combs mediate mestmate recognition by guard honeybees

D'Ettore, Patrizia, Wenseleers, Tom, Dawson, Jenny, Hutchinson, Stuart, Boswell, Tom and Ratnieks, Francis L W (2006) Wax combs mediate mestmate recognition by guard honeybees. Animal Behaviour, 71 (4). pp. 773-779. ISSN 0003-3472

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Research has shown that the wax combs are important in the acquisition of colony odour in the honeybee, Apis mellifera. However, many of these studies were conducted in the laboratory or under artificial conditions. We investigated the role of the wax combs in nestmate recognition in the natural context of bees at colony entrances. Wax combs constructed by each experimental colony were swapped between hives and the acceptance of nestmate and non-nestmate forager workers was recorded before and after the swap, and in relation to a control hive not involved in the swap. We conducted the experiment twice, in consecutive years with three different colonies each time. Colonies that exchanged combs became more accepting of each other's workers than of workers from the third colony. The overall acceptance of comb swap non-nestmates increased significantly from 3% before the swap to 23% after the swap in the first year, and from 8 to 47% in the second year. This effect wore off within 3 weeks. Chemical analyses showed that the cuticular profile of non-nestmates involved in the experimental comb swap became more similar to each other after the swap, and that acceptance by guards of bees from different hives was negatively correlated with chemical distance between the hydrocarbon profiles of the workers from different hives.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Francis Ratnieks
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:12
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2012 14:02
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24713
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