Hierarchy of Attractants for Honey Bee Swarms

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Chemical signals influence the selection of potential nest cavities by honey bee reproductive swarms. Attractants for swarms include the odors of old dark honey bee brood combs, odors from noncomb hive materials and propolis, and Nasonov pheromone, the odor released from the Nasonov glands of worker bees. Based on crossover and choice test experiments, swarms were shown to prefer, among otherwise identical cavities, those cavities containing Nasonov pheromone over cavities with only comb or other hive odors, cavities containing old comb over those with only noncomb odors or propolis, and cavities containing noncomb odors or propolis over those without bee or hive odor. Synergy between odors was not observed; that is, comb and/or noncomb hive odors did not enhance the attractiveness of Nasonov pheromone. The data support a model based on a hierarchy of olfactory attractants used by honey bee swarms, in order of highest to lowest: Nasonov pheromone, comb odor, noncomb and propolis odors, and, finally, absence of bee- or hive-produced odor.

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