International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI2018), August 5-10, 2018 in Guarujá, Brazil.

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The scent of poison: alarm, venom, and honey bee olfactory eavesdropping

Author(s):
James C. Nieh, Shihao Dong , Ping Wen , Qi Zhang , Yuan Wang , Yanan Cheng , Ken Tan , James C. Nieh
Institution(s):
Division of Biological Sciences, Section of Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, University of California San Diego; Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences ; Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences ; Eastern Bee Research Institute, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming, Yunnan Province, China ; Eastern Bee Research Institute, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming, Yunnan Province, China ; Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences ; Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences ; Division of Biological Sciences, Section of Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, University of California San Diego
An evolutionary arms race between hornet predators and Asian honey bees, has led to a remarkable defence, heat-balling, which suffocates hornets with heat and carbon dioxide. The sympatric Asian honey bee species, Apis cerana (Ac), formed heat balls in response to Ac and hornet (Vespa velutina) alarm pheromones, demonstrating eavesdropping. The allopatric species, Apis mellifera (Am), only weakly responded to a live hornet and not to hornet or Am alarm pheromones. Hornets released sting venom when initially attacked. Once heat balls were formed, guards released honey bee sting alarm pheromones: isopentyl acetate, octyl acetate, (E)-2-decen-1-yl acetate, and benzyl acetate. In addition, only Ac heat-balled in response to realistic bee alarm pheromone component levels, <1 bee-equivalent (1 µg), of isopentyl acetate. Further, only Ac, not Am, formed heat-balls in response to a synthetic blend of hornet alarm pheromone. Finally, only Ac antennae showed strong, consistent responses to hornet alarm pheromone compounds and venom volatiles. These data provide the first evidence that the sympatric Ac, but not the allopatric Am, can eavesdrop upon V. velutina alarm pheromone and uses this information, in addition to its own alarm pheromone, to heat-ball hornets. Evolution has likely given Ac this eavesdropping ability.
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