Chemistry of metapleural gland secretions of three attine ants,Atta sexdens rubropilosa, Atta cephalotes, andAcromyrmex octospinosus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

J Chem Ecol. 1996 May;22(5):987-1000. doi: 10.1007/BF02029949.


The chemical composition of the secretions of the metapleural glands of workers and soldiers of twoAtta species,Atta sexdens rubropilosa andA. cephalotes, and workers ofAcromyrmex octospinosus, has been studied. As indicated by infrared spectrometry and confirmed by the ninhydrin test, the secretions contain chiefly proteins. Of the volatile acidic portion, which is present as ionized salts, phenylacetic acid is the major component in workers and soldiers ofA. s. rubropilosa andA. cephalotes. BothAtta species also contain 3-hydroxydecanoic acid and its homolog as minor components together with indoleacetic acid. While there are qualitative similarities in the acidic composition in the secretions ofA. s. rubropilosa andA. cephalotes, they differ quantitatively. The secretion ofAcromyrmex octospinosus contains 3-hydroxydecanoic and indoleacetic acids, but lacks phenylacetic acid. The bactericidal and fungicidal actions of the three major substances have been confirmed.