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Comparison of the Chemical Compositions of the Cuticle and Dufour’s Gland of Two Solitary Bee Species from Laboratory and Field Conditions

Pitts-Singer, Theresa L., Hagen, Marcia M., Helm, Bryan R., Highland, Steven, Buckner, James S., Kemp, William P.
Journal of chemical ecology 2017 v.43 no.5 pp. 451-468
Megachile rotundata, Osmia lignaria, adults, fatty acids, females, free fatty acids, hydrocarbons, lipid composition, nesting, pollination, solitary bees, wax esters
Species-specific biochemistry, morphology, and function of the Dufour’s gland have been investigated for social bees and some non-social bee families. Most of the solitary bees previously examined are ground-nesting bees that use Dufour’s gland secretions to line brood chambers. This study examines the chemistry of the cuticle and Dufour’s gland of cavity-nesting Megachile rotundata and Osmia lignaria, which are species managed for crop pollination. Glandular and cuticular lipid compositions were characterized and compared to each other and according to the nesting experience of adult females. Major lipid classes found were hydrocarbons, free fatty acids, and wax esters. Many components were common to the cuticle and Dufour’s glands of each species, yet not identical in number or relative composition. Wax esters and fatty acids were more prevalent in Dufour’s glands of M. rotundata than on cuticles. Wax esters were more abundant on cuticles of O. lignaria than in Dufour’s glands. In both species, fatty acids were more prevalent in glands of field-collected females compared to any other sample type. Chemical profiles of cuticles and glands were distinct from each other, and, for O. lignaria, profiles of laboratory-maintained bees could be distinguished from those of field-collected bees. Comparison of percentiles of individual components of cuticular and glandular profiles of the same bee showed that the proportions of some cuticular components were predictive of the proportion of the same glandular components, especially for nesting females. Lastly, evidence suggested that Dufour’s gland is the major source of nest-marking substances in M. rotundata, but evidence for this role in O. lignaria was less conclusive.