Droning On About Bee Chemistry

 9-oxo-2-decenoic acid structure

Not spiders, but bees. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have identified an odorant receptor that allows male bee drones to find a queen in flight. The receptor is present on the male antennae and can detect an available queen up to 60 metres away, which is quite a feat in chemical detection. This is the first time an odorant receptor has been linked to a specific pheromone in honey bees.

The “queen substance”, a pheromone, was first identified decades ago, but scientists have only recently begun to understand its structure and its role in hive life. The pheromone is a primary source of the queen’s authority. It is made up of eight components, one of which, 9-oxo-2-decenoic acid (9-ODA), attracts the drones during mating flights. It also draws workers to the queen and retards their reproductive growth.

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