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Resisting majesty: Apis cerana, has lower antennal sensitivity and decreased attraction to queen mandibular pheromone than Apis mellifera.

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In highly social bees, queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) is vital for colony life. Both Apis cerana (Ac) and Apis mellifera (Am) share an evolutionarily conserved set of QMP compounds: (E)-9-oxodec-2-enoic acid (9-ODA), (E)-9-hydroxydec-2-enoic acid (9-HDA), (E)-10-hydroxy-dec-2-enoic acid (10-HDA), 10-hydroxy-decanoic acid (10-HDAA), and methyl p-hydroxybenzoate (HOB) found at similar levels. However, evidence suggests there may be species-specific sensitivity differences to QMP compounds because Ac workers have higher levels of ovarian activation than Am workers. Using electroantennograms, we found species-specific sensitivity differences for a blend of the major QMP compounds and three individual compounds (9-HDA, 10-HDAA, and 10-HDA). As predicted, Am was more sensitive than Ac in all cases (1.3- to 2.7- fold higher responses). There were also species differences in worker retinue attraction to three compounds (9-HDA, HOB, and 10-HDA). In all significantly different cases, Am workers were 4.5- to 6.2-fold more strongly attracted than Ac workers were. Thus, Ac workers responded less strongly to QMP than Am workers, and 9-HDA and 10-HDA consistently elicited stronger antennal and retinue formation responses [corrected].

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