Queens in Megaponera foetens are permanently wingless. In a colony from Kenya we observed that the ergatoid queen was often surrounded by a large number of workers, all conspicuously facing her. To investigate the nature of this attraction, we divided the colony in half. When the queen was transferred from one group to the other, a large court of workers formed immediately. When marked workers were transferred from the queenright group to the other, they attracted much attention and were licked repeatedly. These data suggest that the queen produces a chemical signal which attracts workers, and this signal is transferred onto the workers. In a histological investigation of queen and workers, we found many intersegmental glands in both castes. However, only the queen had a thick glandular epithelium lining her entire body, and this may be the source of her signal. The numerous erect setae covering the queen (but not the workers) may help to dispense the secretions. Our results confirm that ergatoid queens in the Ponerinae are morphologically specialized, despite their external similarity with workers.
- queen pheromone
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science