Bees to scientists: ‘We’re more complicated than you think’.

The researchers maintained their bumblebee colonies in nest boxes in the laboratory. They supplied the insects with a sugar solution and fresh pollen collected from honey bee colonies.

Chemical signaling among social insects, such as bees, ants and wasps, is more complex than previously thought, according to researchers at Penn State and Tel Aviv University, whose results refute the idea that a single group of chemicals controls reproduction across numerous species.

“While the hypothesis that many social insect lineages all use the same chemical signals—known as pheromones—was fascinating, we were skeptical that such complex behaviors could be regulated by a simple, common mechanism across such very different species,” said Etya Amsalem, postdoctoral fellow in entomology, Penn State. “It seems more likely that pheromones evolved uniquely in different species, as these species experienced different environments and different social pressures.”