Honeybees are important pollination insects. They are eusocial insects and they live in colonies contains one queen. They have a complex social organization that is controlled by pheromones. Queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) inhibits worker ovary development and prevents the rearing of new queens.
Environmental stresses ranging from lack of water to altered weather increase the levels of phenolics in nectar, and may be incorporated into honey. Previous studies suggested that increased phenolics in nectar can alter the response threshold of worker bees to sugars.
Dr. GAO Jie, Prof. LIU Fanglin and their colleagues from XTBG chemical ecology research group found that high concentrations of the phenolic quercetin are likely to initiate worker ovary development and to build many queen cells in their colony throughout the feeding trial. Their studies showed that high concentrations of quercetin in nectar disturbe the pheromonal communication system in honeybee colonies, enhance worker bee resistance to queen signals in honeybee colonies. These may suggest that honeybee populations are at risk of altered social organization while extreme weather events are becoming more common in the future.
Their research observations have been published in Journal of Chemical Ecology 2010, 36:1241-1243.