Hugo Paz: The study found that male bees wear “perfume” from different flowers to attract mates
- Orchid bees have greater mating success when they wear ‘perfume’.
- They collect scents and store them in special “pockets” of the hind leg
For some women, a pleasant aftershave scent can make a man look infinitely more attractive.
And the same appears to be true of bees, according to new research.
Scientists have discovered that a certain type of bee, found in countries like Costa Rica and Brazil, has greater mating success when they wear ‘perfume’.
They collect a mixture of scents from different sources and store them in special “pockets” of the hind leg, before using them to seduce a mate.
Researchers from Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany conducted an experiment where they provided some male orchid bees with scents from different flowers, while others were left untreated.
Scientists have discovered that a particular type of bee, found in countries like Costa Rica and Brazil, has greater mating success when they wear ‘perfume’.
They found that the “scented” bees mated with more females and produced more offspring than their untreated counterparts.
Writing in the journal Current Biology, the researchers said: ‘Our results show that scents acquired by males are sexual signals that stimulate females to mate.
These results constitute the first direct evidence that male scents influence the mating preference of female orchid bees.
Previous observations revealed that female bees approach males from upwind, suggesting that scent may be a trigger for their sexual advances.
During this study, the researchers observed one instance where a female bee flew back and forth between two bees before finally choosing to mate with the bee that had a scent.
“With fragrance… being so rare and unpredictable in natural habitats, the perfume manufacturing process is certainly costly for male orchid bees,” the researchers said.
“This provides an opportunity for fragrances to evolve as honest indicators of survival, search for success, cognitive skills, or competitive strength.”
They added that females that respond to fragrance effectively select males who express themselves as ‘fit’.
In the wild, these bees collect volatile compounds—the building blocks of fragrance—from a range of sources including flowers, fruit, resin, sap, mushrooms, and even feces.
Stored in “sacs” on their hind legs, they release the fragrance by repeatedly crossing their legs and spraying it into the air using the vibrations of their wings.
Researchers have found that ‘scented’ bees mate with more females and produce more offspring than their untreated counterparts.