Bumble bees alert to food with pheromone from tergal gland

A. Dornhaus, A. Brockmann, L. Chittka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Foragers of Bombus terrestris are able to alert their nestmates to the presence of food sources. It has been supposed that this happens at least partially through the distribution of a pheromone inside the nest. We substantiate this claim using a behavioral test in which an alerting signal is transmitted from one colony to another by long distance air transport, so excluding all other modalities of information exchange. We then investigated the source of the pheromone and were able to show that a hexane extract from tergites V-VII of bumble bee workers elicits higher activity, like a successful forager does. Extracts from other glands, such as the mandibular, labial, hypopharyngeal, and Dufour's gland as well as extracts from other parts of the cuticle had no effect. This suggests that bumble bees possess a pheromone-producing gland, similar to the Nasanov gland in honey bees. Indeed, an extract from the honey bee Nasanov gland also proved to alert bumblebee workers, suggesting a possible homology of the glands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-51
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Alerting
  • Bombus
  • Communication
  • Foraging
  • Tergal glands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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