A Gland of Many Uses: a Diversity of Compounds in the Labial Glands of the Bumble Bee Bombus impatiens Suggests Multiple Signaling Functions

Margarita Orlova, Gabriel Villar, Abraham Hefetz, Jocelyn G. Millar, Etya Amsalem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Communication in social insect colonies depends on signals accurately reflecting the identity and physiological state of the individuals. Such information is coded by the products of multiple exocrine glands, and the resulting blends reflect the species, sex, caste, age, task, reproductive status, and health of an individual, and may also contain caste-specific pheromones regulating the behavior and physiology of other individuals. Here we examined the composition of labial gland secretions in females of the bumble bee Bombus impatiens, of different castes, social condition, age, mating status, and ovarian activation. We show that active queens, gynes, and workers each produce caste-specific compounds that may serve different communicative functions. The composition and amounts of wax esters, mostly octyl esters produced by active queens, differed significantly between castes, mating, and social conditions, suggesting a social signaling role. Farnesyl esters were predominant in gynes and peaked at optimal mating age (6–10 days), suggesting their possible roles as sex pheromone components. Reproductive status of females and age across castes was reflected by the ratio between short- and long-chain hydrocarbons, suggesting that these compounds may serve as fertility signals. Our findings overall suggest that the labial gland composition in B. impatiens reflects different facets of female physiology. While further bioassays are required to determine the functions of these compounds, they are likely to have important roles in communication between individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-282
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Labial glands
  • Reproduction
  • Sex pheromones
  • Signals
  • Social insects

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'A Gland of Many Uses: a Diversity of Compounds in the Labial Glands of the Bumble Bee Bombus impatiens Suggests Multiple Signaling Functions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this