Friday, January 11, 2008

Smelly Facts : Bee as Perfumer

Bees commonly use odors in order to communicate with each other. This behavior is especially prevalent in the context of mating. These odors, are most often produced by the bees themselves – that is, they are chemicals produced by their glands. Some bees however, make use of odors found in their environment in order to communicate. The males of the neotropical orchid bee genera, which count more than 200 species, collect volatile chemicals from their environment (from flowers, fruit, tree wounds, feces etc) and deposit those in leg pouches in order to create different fragrances which they then use to perfume territorial sites where mating occurs. The role of these fragrances is yet unknown. What is quite astounding, is that these bees use a form of enfleurage (a method of extraction of floral scents by means of a lipophilic carrier, in other words, grease – a method widely used in the perfume industry)! Specifically, in order “to collect fragrances, the bees apply large amounts of straight-chain lipids to odoriferous surfaces from their cephalic labial glands, which dissolve the volatiles, and the mixture is then transferred to voluminous hind-leg pockets.” (...) “From the hind-leg pockets (...) deuterated derivatives of carrier lipids (are) consecutively sequestered, shuttled back to the labial glands and reused on consecutive bouts of fragrance collection. Such lipid cycling is instrumental in creating complex perfume bouquets.”

Reference: Adaptation of text and quotes, “Enfleurage, lipid recycling and the origin of
perfume collection in orchid bees”
, Eltz et al., 2007, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 274.

Image: www.scielo.br


6 comments:

TMH256 said...

Smart little buggers! Very interesting fact, Divina. We could learn a lot from bees. Who knew?

Divina said...

Isn't it truly amazing? What intrigued me most was the fact that they combine chemicals from flowers, fruit, woods and even feces to create these fragrance bouquets! So much like human perfumery!

Mariuca said...

Hola Divina! I just wanna wish u a Happy New Year. Hope 2008 brings you more love, joy and happiness oh and more sweet scents your way! Love and hugs from me! :):):)

Linda said...

A fascinating post, Divina! I love bees, especially the furry ones on my lavender plant in the garden in summer, and now I like them even more. Have a great weekend,
Linda ;-)

Divina said...

Mariuca, darling girl, my best wishes to you too! Thank you for being one of the friendliest and warmest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet online!

Divina said...

Hi Linda! I am allergic to bees (have to have a cortisone shot if I get stung) but I can't help but love them :) They are such a wonderful, beautiful creature and honey seems like a tiny miracle, lol! :)