The role of wax comb in honey bee nestmate recognition

Michael D. Breed, Melissa F. Garry, Alison N. Pearce, Bruce E. Hibbard, Louis B. Bjostad, Robert E. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Worker honey bees, Apis mellifera, are able to discriminate between combs on the basis of genetic similarity to a learned comb. The nestmate recognition cues that they acquire from the comb also have a genetically correlated component. Cues are acquired from comb in very short exposure periods (5 min or less) and can be transferred among bees that are in physical contact. Gas chromatographic analysis demonstrates that bees with exposure to comb have different chemical surface profiles than bees without such exposure. These results support the hypothesis that comb-derived recognition cues are highly important in honey bee nestmate recognition. These cues are at least in part derived from the wax itself, rather than from floral scents that have been absorbed by the wax.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-496
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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