Chemical cues involved in the attraction of the oligolectic bee Hoplitis adunca to its host plant Echium vulgare

Iolanda Filella, Jordi Bosch, Joan Llusià, Anna Peñuelas, Josep Peñuelas

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    Host recognition is a key process in oligolectic bees but the mechanisms through which they find and recognize appropriate pollen host plant are not entirely clear. Hoplitis adunca is a monolectic bee collecting pollen only from Echium spp. (Boraginaceae). We aimed to test whether Echium vulgare floral scent plays a major role in the attraction of H. adunca females, and to identify components of E. vulgare scent that may be involved in this specific attraction. We used a combination of behavioral and chemical (GC/GC-MS, PTR-MS) analyses. In order to identify the chemical cues likely to be involved in the specific attraction of H. adunca, we compared the scent of fresh flowers, nectar, pollen, and whole plants of E. vulgare and Anchusa officinalis, another Boraginaceae, which does not attract H. adunca. H. adunca females were attracted to the scent of E. vulgare flowers when offered against a blank or against the scent of A. officinalis flowers. However, H. adunca females were not attracted to the scent of A. officinalis flowers when offered against a blank. The emission spectra of the two plant species differed markedly, as did the emission spectra of various flower components (pollen, nectar and whole flowers) within a species. Pollen presented a low volatile release, but emitted significantly higher amounts of mass 55 (butanal, 1,3-butadiene, or other volatiles of molecular mass 54), and mass 83 (hexanal, hexenols, hexenyl acetate, or other volatiles of molecular mass 82) in E. vulgare than in A. officinalis. Nectar produced a particular emission spectrum with high emission rates of masses 109 and 123. Mass 109 may likely correspond to 1,4-benzoquinone, a volatile specifically measured in E. vulgare in parallel studies to this one. The flower emission spectrum was mainly a combination of the pollen and the nectar scents, although it also contained additional volatile compounds such as those of mass 63 or mass 81. As for terpenes, E. vulgare emitted limonene, longicyclene, junipene, trans-caryophyllene and α-humulene, that were not detected in A. officinalis, and the most emitted monoterpenes were α-pinene, junipene and limonene whereas the most emitted terpenoid by A. officinalis was α-pinene. After identifying these chemical cues, olfactory/behavioural assays with specific volatiles and combinations of volatiles are necessary to understand the chemical interactions of the H. adunca-E. vulgare system. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)498-508
    JournalBiochemical Systematics and Ecology
    Issue number4-6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


    • Echium vulgare
    • Flower
    • Hoplitis adunca
    • Nectar
    • Oligolecty
    • Pollen
    • Terpenes
    • Volatile organic compounds


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