Use of Dufour's gland secretion in nest defence and brood nutrition by hover wasps (Hymenoptera, Stenogastrinae)

M. F. Sledge, A. Fortunato, S. Turillazzi, E. Francescato, R. Hashim, G. Moneti, G. R. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Social wasps of the subfamily Stenogastrinae produce an abdominal secretion that is used in two distinct biological contexts. First, the secretion plays an important role in larval nutrition where it serves as a substrate in which food is placed by the adults for eventual consumption by the larvae. Second, in several species, females apply the same secretion to the substrate on which their nests are constructed, where it constitutes a sticky barrier that defends the immature brood from predation by ants. This paper describes for the first time ant guard construction behaviour of three species of stenogastrine wasps belonging to the genera Eustenogaster and Liostenogaster. The identification of compounds making up these secretions was also performed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Ant guards and brood secretions were similar, with saturated and unsaturated long chain hydrocarbons and alcohols as major components. We further confirm that the glandular source of abdominal secretion is the Dufour's gland. This gland contains the same hydrocarbons, and in the same proportions as ant guards and brood secretion. We discuss the fundamental importance of Dufour's gland secretion in the social life of these wasps by comparing species with and without ant guards within the subfamily. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-761
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of insect physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemical communication
  • Defence
  • Dufour's gland
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Social wasps
  • Stenogastrinae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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