Do Solitary Bees Have A Dufours Gland And What Is Its Function?

The short answer is 'yes'.
Solitary bees have a Dufour's gland.  It's function varies depending on species.

Here we'll take a broad look at the function of the Dufour's gland in solitary bees.

The Dufour's Gland In Solitary Bees

I have already written about the Dufour’s gland in honey bees

The Dufour's gland is an exocrine gland which in honey bees,  seems to have different functions in queens and workers.

In queen honey bees the Dufour’s gland secretions are part of the complex queen signal, and it is thought that the secretions play a role in helping worker bees distinguish between queen-laid eggs and worker-laid eggs,, and engage in ‘worker policing’1,2,3,4.

On the other hand, in worker honey bees, the Dufour’s gland secretes an alarm pheromone.

Is the function of the Dufour’s gland different in solitary bees?

Whereas honey bee colonies are superorganisms, solitary bees do not function within colonies, and the Dufour’s gland has a number of different functions in solitary bees.

These differences have evolved over the millions of years that bees have been evolving.

Scientists believe that in solitary bees, the function of the Dufour’s gland can broadly include:

  • pheromone production (which can have several different communication purposes);
  • larval food production;
  • production of materials used in nest construction 

However, it appears that the function of the Dufour’s gland in solitary bees seems to differ from bee family to bee family5.

Function Of The Dufour's Gland In The Megachilidae Bee Family

Close up of Osmia caerulescens blue mason bee female perched on the end of a twigAbove: Osmia caerluscens

This family includes: leafcutter bees (
Megachile genus); mason bees (Osmia and Hoplitis genera); wool carder bees (Anthidium genus); Resin bees (Heriades

genus); Sharp-tailed bees (Coelioxys genus); Scissor bees (Chelostoma genus); Dark bees (Stellis genus).

It is thought that in the Megachilidae family, the Dufour’s gland secretions are for brood cell lining, larval food, and nest recognition6,7,8 .

Function Of The Dufour's Gland In The Halictidae Bee Family
This family includes: Sweat bees (Lasioglossum genus); Furrow bees; (Halictus genus and Lasioglossum genera); Blood bees (Sphecodes genus).

In this family, the Dufour’s gland secretions are for brood cell lining, nest strengthening, nest recognition, nestmate and kin recognition, and as a sex hormone 9,10,11,12,13.

Function Of The Dufour's Gland In The Apidae Bee Family
This family includes: Carpenter bees (Xylocopa genus and Ceratina genus); Nomad bees (Nomada genus); Flower bees (Anthropora genus); Long-horned bees
(Eucera genus); Mourning bees (Melecta genus).

In this family, the Dufour’s gland secretions are for forage site marking14.

Function Of The Dufour's Gland In The Andrenidae Bee Family
The Adrenidae family family includes Mining bees (Andrena genus).
In this family, the functions of the Dufour’s gland secretions are brood cell lining9 , nest recognition15 and kin recognition16.

Function Of The Dufour's Gland In The Colletidae Bee Family
The Colletidae family includes Plasterer bees (Colletes genus) and Yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus genus);

According to research, in this family, the functions of the Dufour’s gland secretions are brood cell lining17 and nest recognition.

Hylaeus communis common yellow-face bee yellow masked beeAbove: Hylaeus communis

Read about: The Function Of The Dufour's Gland In Bumble Bees


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2. Oldroyd B.P., Ratnieks F.L.W. (2000) ‘Evolution of worker sterility in honey-bees (Apis mellifera): how anarchistic workers evade policing by laying eggs that have low
removal rates.’ Behav Ecol Sociobiol 47:268–273
3. Katzav-Gozansky T, Soroker V, Ibarra F, Francke W, Hefetz A (2001) ‘Dufour’s gland secretion of the queen honeybee (Apis mellifera): an egg discriminator pheromone
or a queen signal?’ Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51:76–86
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