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Want to avoid being stung by a bee? Use floral perfume

Bees get a bigger buzz from feasting than fighting, according to new research.

Honeybees that are exhibiting aggressive behaviour seemingly 'calm down' when exposed to floral odours.

The researchers found that this isn't because the odours overpower other scents, but instead because the insects respond more to information about food.




Like many insects bees, communicate via chemical signals such as giving off 'alarm pheromones' that alert other members of the hive to a threat, resulting in violent behaviour once it arrives.

But this comes at a high cost, since stinging results in death of the bee once the stinger becomes detached in the body of its victim.

The tests were carried out by researchers from the University of Queensland.

By counting the number of sting attacks triggered by a rotating feather disturbing them, they found floral compounds called linalool and 2-phenylethanol soothed the bees, as did lavender.
And the study revealed this was not due to the odours masking the chemical, but was linked with the extent to which they represented a valuable food reward.

The research, published in Nature Communications, provides new insights into the sensory conflicts that co-ordinate decision making in bees.

Understanding the biological mechanisms at play is a crucial step in developing tools for how to manage the bees.

They may also have a practical application in helping beekeepers keep their hives calm.

Biological scientist Morgane Nouvian, from the university said: 'Honeybees defend their colonies aggressively against intruders and release a potent alarm pheromone to recruit nestmates into defensive tasks.

'The effect of floral odours on this behaviour has never been studied, despite the relevance of these olfactory cues for the biology of bees.

'We show that social interactions are necessary to reveal the recruiting function of the alarm pheromone and that specific floral odours-linalool and 2-phenylethanol-have the surprising capacity to block recruitment by the alarm pheromone.

'This effect is not due to an olfactory masking of the pheromone by the floral odours, but correlates with their appetitive value.

'In addition to their potential applications, these findings provide new insights about how honeybees make the decision to engage into defence and how conflicting information affects this process.'

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