Comparative study of the cuticular hydrocarbon composition of Melipona bicolor Lepeletier, 1836 (Hymenoptera, Meliponini) workers and queens

Genet Mol Res. 2003 Jun 30;2(2):191-9.


In social insects, cuticular hydrocarbons are involved in species, kin, caste and nestmate recognition. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry were used to compare the cuticular hydrocarbon composition of workers, males and queens of Melipona bicolor. The cuticular hydrocarbon composition of this species was found to consist mainly of C23, C25:1, C25, C27:1, C27, C29:1 and C29, which are already present in imagoes that have not yet abandoned the brood cell. This composition varied quantitatively and qualitatively between and within the castes and sexes. The newly emerged workers and young queens (virgins) had similar cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, which were different from those of the males. When the females start executing their tasks in the colony, the cuticular hydrocarbon profile differences appear. The workers have less variety, while the queens conserve or increase the number of cuticular hydrocarbon compounds. The queens have more abdominal tegumentary glands than the workers, which apparently are the source of the new cuticular compounds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / chemistry*
  • Bees / physiology
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Pheromones / analysis
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Social Behavior
  • Wings, Animal / chemistry*


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Pheromones