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Sunflower aroma detection by the honeybee: study by coupling gas chromatography and electroantennography

Thiery, D., Bluet, J.M., Pham-Delegue, M.H., Etievant, P., Masson, C.
Journal of chemical ecology 1990 v.16 no.3 pp. 701-711
Helianthus annuus, odors, volatile compounds, separation, chemical analysis, allelopathy, Apis mellifera ligustica, chemical constituents of plants, plant-insect relations
Combined electrophysiological recordings (EAG) and gas chromatographic separation were performed in order to investigate which volatile chemical components of a sunflower extract could be detected by honeybee workers and thus are likely to trigger the foraging behavior. A direct coupling device allowed for the stimulation of the antennal receptors with individual constituents of a polar fraction of the flower aroma shown to be attractive to bees. More than 100 compounds were separated from the extract. Twenty-four compounds elicited clear EAG responses. These compounds were identified by mass spectrometry (electronic impact and chemical ionisation). Both short- and long-chain aliphatic alcohols, one short-chain aliphatic aldehyde, one acid, two esters, and terpenic compounds were found to stimulate the antennal receptors. Six compounds identified in previous behavioral experiments were found to exhibit EAG activity. The chemicals screened by this method may be used for recognition of the plant odor and the selective behavior of honeybees.