Exocrine glands in the legs of the stingless bee Frieseomelitta varia (Lepeletier) (Apidae: Meliponini)

Johan Billen, Lore Vander Plancken


Social insects are known for their overwhelming diversity of exocrine glands. This study examines the glands in the legs of workers of Frieseomelitta varia (Lepeletier). A variety of 15 glands was found, with glands occurring in every leg segment, whereas previous studies only described 5 glands in stingless bee legs. Six glands are novel exocrine structures for social insects. Glands occurring in the articulation region between adjacent leg segments may occur in a repetitive pattern, and probably have a lubricant function. For most glands, however, the function is not yet known, and will require further experimental work.


Legs, exocrine glands, morphology, Meliponini

Full Text:



Arnhart, L. (1923). Das Krallenglied der Honigbiene. Arch. Bienenkunde, 5: 37-86.

Beani, L. & Calloni, C. (1991). Leg tegumental glands and male rubbing behavior at leks in Polistes dominulus (Hyme¬noptera: Vespidae). J. Chem. Ecol., 4: 449-462.

Billen, J. (1986). Etude morphologique des glandes tarsales chez la guêpe Polistes annularis (L.) (Vespidae, Polistinae). Actes Colloq. Insectes Soc., 3: 51-60.

Billen, J. (1997). Morphology and ultrastructure of the metatibial gland in the army ant Dorylus molestus (Hyme¬noptera, Formicidae). Belg. J. Zool., 127: 179-186.

Billen, J. (2008). A novel exocrine gland in the trochanter of ant legs. Acta Zool.-Stockholm, 89: 201-204.

Billen, J. (2009). Occurrence and structural organization of the exocrine glands in the legs of ants. Arthr. Struct. Dev., 38: 2-15.

Billen, J. (2011) Exocrine glands and their key function in the com¬munication system of social insects. Formos. Entomol., 31: 75-84.

Billen, J. & Ito, F. (2006). The basicoxal gland, a new exo¬crine structure in poneromorph ants (Hymenoptera, Formici¬dae). Acta Zool.-Stockholm, 87: 291-296.

Billen, J. & Morgan, E.D. (1998). Pheromone communica¬tion in social insects – sources and secretions. In R.K. Vander Meer, M.D. Breed, M.L. Winston & K.E. Espelie (Eds.), Pheromone Communication in Social Insects: Ants, Wasps, Bees and Termites (pp. 3-33). Boulder: Westview Press.

Billen, J., Ito, F. & Peeters, C. (2000). Novel exocrine glands in the hindleg tarsi of the ant Nothomyrmecia macrops. Aust. J. Zool., 48: 661-667.

Cruz-Landim, C. (2002). Glândulas das pernas. In C. da Cruz -Landim & F.C. Abdalla (Eds.), Glândulas Exócrinas das Abe¬lhas (pp. 165-181). Ribeirão Preto: FUNPEC Editora.

Cruz-Landim, C. & de Moraes, R.L.M.S. (1994). Ultrastruc¬tural localization of new exocrine glands in legs of social Ap¬idae (Hymenoptera) workers. J. Adv. Zool., 15: 60-67.

Cruz-Landim, C. & Staurengo, M.A. (1965). Glande tarsale des abeilles sans aiguillon. Proceedings 5th International Congress IUSSI, Toulouse, pp. 219-225

Cruz Landim, C., de Moraes, R.L.M.S., Salles, H.C. & Regi¬nato, R.D. (1998). Note on glands present in Meliponinae (Hy¬menoptera, Apidae) bees legs. Rev. Bras. Zool., 15: 159-165.

Federle, W., Brainerd, E.L., McMahon, T.A. & Hölldobler, B. (2001). Biomechanics of the movable pretarsal adhesive organ in ants and bees. P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 98: 6215-6220.

Goulson, D., Stout, J.C., Langley, J. & Hughes, W.O.H. (2000). Identity and function of scent marks deposited by for¬aging bumblebees. J. Chem. Ecol., 26: 2897-2911.

Hölldobler, B. & Wilson, E.O. (1990). The Ants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 732 p.

Jarau, S., Hrncir, M., Ayasse, M., Schulz, C., Francke, W., Zucchi, R. & Barth, F.G. (2004). A stingless bee (Melipona seminigra) marks food sources with a pheromone from its claw retractor tendons. J. Chem. Ecol., 30: 793-804.

Jarau, S., Hrncir, M., Zucchi, R. & Barth, F.G. (2005). Mor¬phology and structure of the tarsal glands of the stingless bee Melipona seminigra. Naturwissenschaften, 92: 147-150.

Lensky, Y. & Slabezki, I. (1981). The inhibiting effect of the queen bee (Apis mellifera L.) foot-print pheromone on the construction of swarming queen cups. J. Insect Physiol., 27: 313-323.

Noirot, C. & Quennedey, A. (1974). Fine structure of insect epidermal glands. Annu. Rev. Entomol., 19: 61-80.

Pouvreau, A. (1991). Morphology and histology of tarsal glands in bumble bees of the genus Bombus, Pyrobombus, and Megabombus. Can. J. Zool., 69: 866-872.

Roma, G.C., Bueno, O.C. & Camargo-Mathias, M.I. (2010). Morpho-physiological analysis of the insect fact body: A re¬view. Micron, 41: 395-401.

Schoeters, E. & Billen, J. (1993). Glandes coxales de Pachy¬condyla obscuricornis (Formicidae, Ponerinae). Actes Col¬loq. Insectes Soc., 8: 183-186.

Schönitzer, K., Dott, H. & Melzer, R.R. 1996. The antenna cleaner gland in Messor rufitarsis (Hymenoptera, Formici¬dae). Tissue Cell, 28: 107-113.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13102/sociobiology.v61i4.386-392


  • There are currently no refbacks.

JCR Impact Factor 2019: 0.690