Variation in chemical communication systems

Our studies of interactions among the honey bee queen, workers and drones revealed a nuanced and sophisticated pheromone communication system that balances cooperation and conflict (see our review [1]).  The pheromone blend produced by the queen is an ‘honest signal’ that provides information on her presence, mating status, mating quality, and behavioral state, and worker responses to the pheromone blend vary accordingly [2-7].  Furthermore, there is considerable individual variation in worker responses to queen pheromone, which is mediated by workers’ reproductive potential [8, 9].  Finally, our recent studies have found that, in addition to their previously characterized responses to sex pheromones, male honey bees (drones) are also responsive to social pheromones, which can modulate their physiology and maturation rates [10].

Current lab members: David Galbraith, Ryan Reynolds

Former lab members: Sarah Kocher, Elina Lastro Niño, Mario Padilla, Freddie-Jeanne Richard, Jessica Richards, Gabriel Villar

Collaborators (Penn State): Naomi Altman, Tom Baker

Collaborators: Gro Amdam, Abraham Hefetz, Heather Mattila, Robert Page, David Tarpy, Peter Teal


1. Kocher SD, Grozinger CM: Cooperation, conflict, and the evolution of queen pheromones. J Chem Ecol 2011, 37(11):1263-1275.

2.Kocher SD, Richard FJ, Tarpy DR, Grozinger CM: Queen reproductive state modulates pheromone production and queen-worker interactions in honeybees. Behav Ecol 2009, 20(5):1007-1014.

3.Nino EL, Malka O, Hefetz A, Tarpy DR, Grozinger CM: Chemical profiles of two pheromone glands are differentially regulated by distinct mating factors in honey bee queens (Apis mellifera L.). PLoS One 2013, 8(11):e78637.

4.Nino EL, Malka O, Hefetz A, Teal P, Hayes J, Grozinger CM: Effects of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) queen insemination volume on worker behavior and physiology. J Insect Physiol 2012, 58(8):1082-1089.

5.Richard FJ, Schal C, Tarpy DR, Grozinger CM: Effects of instrumental insemination and insemination quantity on Dufour's gland chemical profiles and vitellogenin expression in honey bee queens (Apis mellifera). J Chem Ecol 2011, 37(9):1027-1036.

6.Richard FJ, Tarpy DR, Grozinger CM: Effects of insemination quantity on honey bee queen physiology. PLoS One 2007, 2(10):e980.

7.Richards J, Carr-Markell M, Hefetz A, Grozinger CM, Mattila HR: Queen-produced volatiles change dynamically during reproductive swarming and are associated with changes in honey bee (Apis mellifera) worker behavior. Apidologie 2015, 46(6):679-690.

8.Galbraith DA, Wang Y, Amdam GV, Page RE, Grozinger CM: Reproductive physiology mediates honey bee (Apis mellifera) worker responses to social cues. Behav Ecology and Sociobiology 2015, 69(9):1511-1518.

9.  Kocher SD, Ayroles JF, Stone EA, Grozinger CM: Individual variation in pheromone response correlates with reproductive traits and brain gene expression in worker honey bees. PLoS One 2010, 5(2):e9116.

10. Villar G, Grozinger CM: Primer Effects of Honey Bee Queen Pheromone on Drones (Apis mellifera). Animal Behavior in review.