When the frenzied and irregular food-recruitment dances of bumblebees were first discovered, it was thought that they might represent an evolutionary prototype to the honeybee waggle dance. It later emerged that the primary function of the bumblebee dance was the distribution of an alerting pheromone. Here, we identify the chemical compounds of the bumblebee recruitment pheromone and their behaviour effects. The presence of two monoterpenes and one sesquiterpene (eucalyptol, ocimene and farnesol) in the nest airspace and in the tergal glands increases strongly during foraging. Of these, eucalyptol has the strongest recruitment effect when a bee nest is experimentally exposed to it. Since honeybees use terpenes for marking food sources rather than recruiting foragers inside the nest, this suggests independent evolutionary roots of food recruitment in these two groups of bees.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics