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J Chem Ecol. 2010 May;36(5):522-5. doi: 10.1007/s10886-010-9786-2. Epub 2010 Apr 17.

Nosema spp. infection alters pheromone production in honey bees (Apis mellifera).

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UMR 406 Abeilles et Environnement, Laboratoire Biologie et Protection de l'abeille, INRA, Site Agroparc, 84914, Avignon, France.


Pheromones in social insects play a key role in the regulation of group homoeostasis. It is well-established that parasites can modify hormone signaling of their host, but less is known about the effect of parasites on pheromone signaling in insect societies. We, thus, tested in honey bees (Apis mellifera) the effect of the widespread parasite Nosema spp. on the production of ethyl oleate (EO), the only identified primer pheromone in honey bee workers. Since environmental stressors like pesticides also can weaken honey bees, we also analyzed the effect of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid widely used in agriculture, on EO production. We show that, contrary to imidacloprid, Nosema spp. significantly altered EO production. In addition, the level of Nosema infection was correlated positively with the level of EO production. Since EO is involved in the regulation of division of labor among workers, our result suggests that the changes in EO signaling induced by parasitism have the potential to disturb the colony homoeostasis.

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