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Intraspecific Geographic Variation of Fragrances Acquired by Orchid Bees in Native and Introduced Populations


Male orchid bees collect volatiles, from both floral and non-floral sources, that they expose as pheromone analogues (perfumes) during courtship display. The chemical profile of these perfumes, which includes terpenes and aromatic compounds, is both species-specific and divergent among closely related lineages. Thus, fragrance composition is thought to play an important role in prezygotic reproductive isolation in euglossine bees. However, because orchid bees acquire fragrances entirely from exogenous sources, the chemical composition of male perfumes is prone to variation due to environmental heterogeneity across habitats. We used Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) to characterize the perfumes of 114 individuals of the green orchid bee (Euglossa aff. viridissima) sampled from five native populations in Mesoamerica and two naturalized populations in the southeastern United States. We recorded a total of 292 fragrance compounds from hind-leg extracts, and found that overall perfume composition was different for each population. We detected a pronounced chemical dissimilarity between native (Mesoamerica) and naturalized (U.S.) populations that was driven both by proportional differences of common compounds as well as the presence of a few chemicals unique to each population group. Despite these differences, our data also revealed remarkable qualitative consistency in the presence of several major fragrance compounds across distant populations from dissimilar habitats. In addition, we demonstrate that naturalized bees are attracted to and collect large quantities of triclopyr 2-butoxyethyl ester, the active ingredient of several commercially available herbicides. By comparing incidence values and consistency indices across populations, we identify putative functional compounds that may play an important role in courtship signaling in this species of orchid bee.

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