Acceptance threshold hypothesis is supported by chemical similarity of cuticular hydrocarbons in a stingless bee, Melipona asilvai

J Chem Ecol. 2012 Nov;38(11):1432-40. doi: 10.1007/s10886-012-0194-7. Epub 2012 Oct 11.


The ability to discriminate nestmates from non-nestmates in insect societies is essential to protect colonies from conspecific invaders. The acceptance threshold hypothesis predicts that organisms whose recognition systems classify recipients without errors should optimize the balance between acceptance and rejection. In this process, cuticular hydrocarbons play an important role as cues of recognition in social insects. The aims of this study were to determine whether guards exhibit a restrictive level of rejection towards chemically distinct individuals, becoming more permissive during the encounters with either nestmate or non-nestmate individuals bearing chemically similar profiles. The study demonstrates that Melipona asilvai (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) guards exhibit a flexible system of nestmate recognition according to the degree of chemical similarity between the incoming forager and its own cuticular hydrocarbons profile. Guards became less restrictive in their acceptance rates when they encounter non-nestmates with highly similar chemical profiles, which they probably mistake for nestmates, hence broadening their acceptance level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Hydrocarbons / chemistry*
  • Recognition, Psychology*


  • Hydrocarbons