TitleIncreased complexity of worker CHC profiles in Apis dorsata correlates with nesting ecology.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsMaihoff F, Bohlke K, Brockmann A, Schmitt T
JournalPLoS One
Date Published2022
KeywordsAnimals, Bees, Cues, Hydrocarbons, Nesting Behavior

Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC) are known to serve as discrimination cues and will trigger defence behaviour in a plethora of eusocial insects. However, little is known how about nestmate recognition ability selects for CHC diversification. In this study we investigate differences in CHC composition of four major honey bee species with respect to the differences in their nesting behavior. In contrast to A. mellifera, A. cerana and A. florea, the giant honey bee A. dorsata prefers to build their nests in aggregations with very small spatial distances between nests, which increases the probability of intrusions. Thus, A. dorsata exhibits a particularly challenging nesting behavior which we hypothesize should be accompanied with an improved nestmate recognition system. Comparative analyses of the worker CHC profiles indicate that A. dorsata workers exhibit a unique and more complex CHC profile than the other three honey bee species. This increased complexity is likely based on a developmental process that retains the capability to synthesize methyl-branched hydrocarbons as adults. Furthermore, two sets of behavioral experiments provide evidence that A. dorsata shows an improved nestmate discrimination ability compared to the phylogenetically ancestral A. florea, which is also open-nesting but does not form nest aggregations. The results of our study suggest that ecological traits like nesting in aggregation might be able to drive CHC profile diversification even in closely related insect species.

Alternate JournalPLoS One
PubMed ID35901097
PubMed Central IDPMC9333238