Use of Flax Oil to Influence Honey Bee Nestmate Recognition

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Fatty acids, normally found in comb wax, have a strong influence on nestmate recognition in honey bees, Apis mellifera L. Previous work has shown that bees from different colonies, when treated with 16- or 18-carbon fatty acids, such as oleic, linoleic, or linolenic acids, are much less likely to fight than bees from two colonies when only one of the two is treated. Previous work also shows that the influence of comb wax on recognition has practical applications; transfer of empty comb between colonies, before merger of those colonies, reduces fighting among workers within the merged colony. Flax oil contains many of the same fatty acids as beeswax. Here, we tested the hypothesis that treatment of individual bees with flax oil affects nestmate recognition; the results proved to be consistent with this hypothesis and showed that treated bees from different colonies were less likely to fight than untreated bees. These results suggest that flax oil may be useful in facilitating colony mergers.

Keywords: Apis mellifera; fatty acid; flax oil; honey bee; nestmate recognition

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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