The communication in social Hymenoptera involves the use of antennae as sensory appendages to perceive various signals among which the pheromones have an extremely important role. However, the fact that antennae are not exclusively receivers of signals, but also producers and emitters of chemicals, discloses intriguing new hypothesis about the ways members of the colony can send and receive a message. This situation applies to all three major taxonomic groups of social hymenopterans, i.e. ants, wasps and bees. Here we present some new data on males of some Vespoidea and Apoidea, and one case of female antennal glands in Formicoidea.
The species investigated were two Vespoidea (Polistes gallicus, Vespa crabro) and three Apoidea (Apis mellifera, Bombus pascuorum, Xylocopa violacea). The secretory scructures belong to class 1 or class 3; these glands can release their products through separate outlets or can coexist in a unit mixing secretions in a common release site.
Observations on mating behaviour and morphology carried out on some parasitoids (Terebrantia) and on a solitary bee (Aculeata) have shown that the secretion, either volatile or acting on contact, induces sex recognition in the female. In light of this, although behavioural observations are still lacking or unclear, we hypothesize also for social hymenopterans the existence of a courtship pheromone.
Female antennal glands (belonging to the 3rd class of secretory cells) have been found only in the queen and workers of the Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta, but their function remains still uncertain.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Apis mellifera ligustica (honey bee)
Species 2: Hymenoptera Vespidae Polistes dominulus (paper wasp)
Species 3: Hymenoptera Formicidae Solenopsis invicta (imported fire ant)
Keywords: secretory cells, mating behavior
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