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Bees eavesdrop upon informative and persistent signal compounds in alarm pheromones

  • Author(s): Wang, Z
  • Wen, P
  • Qu, Y
  • Dong, S
  • Li, J
  • Tan, K
  • Nieh, JC
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.1038/srep25693
Abstract

Pollinators such as bees provide a critical ecosystem service that can be impaired by information about predation. We provide the first evidence for olfactory eavesdropping and avoidance of heterospecific alarm signals, alarm pheromones, at food sources in bees. We predicted that foragers could eavesdrop upon heterospecific alarm pheromones, and would detect and avoid conspicuous individual pheromone compounds, defined by abundance and their ability to persist. We show that Apis cerana foragers avoid the distinctive alarm pheromones of A. dorsata and A. mellifera, species that share the same floral resources and predators. We next examined responses to individual alarm pheromone compounds. Apis cerana foragers avoided isopentyl acetate (IPA), which is found in all three species and is the most abundant and volatile of the tested compounds. Interestingly, A. cerana also avoided an odor component, gamma-octanoic lactone (GOL), which is >150-fold less volatile than IPA. Chemical analyses confirmed that GOL is only present in A. dorsata, not in A. cerana. Electroantennogram (EAG) recordings revealed that A. cerana antennae are 10-fold more sensitive to GOL than to other tested compounds. Thus, the eavesdropping strategy is shaped by signal conspicuousness (abundance and commonality) and signal persistence (volatility).

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