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Queens Occupy Pheromones

By pomm79, Apr 6 2015 12:57AM

During mating drones and queens occupy pheromones at 10-40 m above ground, which is considerably higher than that usually used by foraging workers. This makes the study of pheromonal mating behaviour difficult. However, as early as 1902, F.W.L. Sladen made some very astute observations: Learn about pheromone perfumes |

The hum of drones flying in the air can often be distinctly heard, especially in open country where the ground is high or rising. In such a spot, on three or four successive warm and sunny days in the early part of July 1902 I found it quite easy to attract swarms of drones to a virgin queen that was placed in a cage on a post about 4 ft above the surface of the ground, between 1 and 3 p.m by using scent pheromones. The drones were attracted also by the cage alone after the queen had been in it. Other drones were attracted to these drones, chasing one another, and sometimes a little swarm of drones would fall to the ground. When several virgin queens were exposed to sex pheromones a short distance from one another the drones generally paid attention to one only.

The pheromone attractiveness of a queen was increased by association with the drones, and also by raising her 20 or 30 ft by means of a kite. It is clear that the scent of the queen attracted the drones, and it seems to me likely that the ardent drones attracted the other drones by emitting a scent themselves’ (Salmon, 1938) according to the pheromones research.

Role of pheromones in mating

Mating behaviour received renewed interest when Gary (1962) developed a drone attraction bioassay in which tethered queens were suspended, at heights of 10-25 In, from pheroone filled balloons or from a horizontal nylon line stretched between two 14 m poles. Each queen had a nylon tether, approximately one metre long, glued to her thorax so she was able to fly in a small circle. When the queen was raised aloft drones were soon attracted to her.

Small pieces of filter paper on which virgin queens had been squashed also attracted drones. The source of this attraction was shown to be the queen’s mandibular glands. Synthetic pheromones, the main component of the mandibular glands (page 21), was by itself effective. However, the individual fraction of the mandibular gland secretion that contained pheromones was less attractive than the whole complex.

Adaptations of Gary’s technique have been used by several other workers: pheromones have been presented on cotton wool, filter paper or small porous polyethylene blocks together with lures which were either dead extracted queens or workers or small wooden ‘models’. Learn more at and

Newly emerged queens have little 9-ODA but the amount increases until they are about ten days old (Butler and Paton, 1962; Pain et al., 1967; pages 21 and 23). Probably in association with this, virgin queens do not attract drones until they are five days old and elicit a maximum response when they are about eight days old (Butler, 1971). Production of pheromones in virgin queens is greatest from 11.00 to 17.00 h daily (Pain and Roger, 1978); during this time of day mating flights occur.

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