The role of Dufour's gland secretions in bees

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ABSTRACT. Dufour's gland of bees is often hypertrophied and an extremely rich source of diverse natural products. In the ground‐dwelling bees the secretion is mostly used for lining the brood cell with a hydrophobic lining. Whereas in several species the secretion is smeared on the cell walls without any modification, in others the hydrophobic lining is formed only after a chemical transformation of the secretion. The diversity of the chemical means by which hydrophobicity of the brood cells is achieved suggests that it has evolved repeatedly in the bees. In addition to lining their brood cells, several species use Dufour's gland secretion to mark their nest entrance. Analyses of single glands from various species reveal that each bee possesses its own individual composition, expressed in specific relative amounts of each component. Interestingly in the social halictid Evylaeus malachurum, nestmates (considered as sisters) are more similar to each other than non‐related bees. The possible functional evolution of the glandular exudate from structural functions to communication and its implications for our understanding of eusociality in bees, is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-253
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1987


  • Apoidea
  • Dufour's gland
  • cell linings
  • chemical communication
  • chemosystematics
  • exocrine secretions
  • nest‐mate recognition
  • pheromones
  • sociochemicals


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