Tergal gland components of reproductively dominant honey bee workers have both primer and releaser effects on subordinate workers

02 Jun 2020

The primer and releaser effects of dominant honey bee workers’ tergal gland pheromones are not known under queenless conditions. The Cape honey bee, Apis mellifera capensis, is the ideal model to investigate such question since workers normally reproductively dominate workers of all other subspecies. We determined the effects that short- and long-term exposure to pheromone blends from dominant A. m. capensis workers had on subordinate workers of A. m. scutellata. Three putative pheromonal blends, 1 (palmitic acid, oleic acid, n-heneicosene and n-tricosene), 2 (ethyl palmitate, ethyl oleate and ethyl stearate) and 3 (mixture of blends 1 + 2), were tested. All the three putative pheromonal blends elicited releaser effects in the form of retinue formation and primer effects by suppressing ovarian activation in workers. The resultant effects indicated that these pheromonal blends appear to play a role in establishing dominance among workers and hence regulating opportunities to reproduce.