by Jonathan C. O’Quinn, D.P.M., M.S.

Honeybees are social insects that live in highly organized colonies.  Many people are familiar with the “wiggle dances” that foraging honeybees use to communicate the location of food sources to their sister bees, but these animals also use a highly sophisticated array of nearly 50 chemical pheromone signals to orchestrate every detail of day-to-day life.

Isopentyl acetate in alarm pheromone, for example, is one of about 25 different molecules released from a honeybee worker’s sting gland during stinging that arouse the colony in response to any perceived threat. Nasanov pheromone is a seven-component blend of chemicals released by worker honeybees to elicit non-aggressive swarming. The queen produces a nine-component cocktail of pheromones that, when blended together, act synergistically to attract worker bees to specially care for her. Should the queen die, several hours’ absence of this chemical signal induces workers to choose several freshly laid eggs to raise into new queens.  Long-term absence of this signal induces some workers to develop ovaries….

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