365体育网站

Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher K. Starr

Allomones

  • Abdullahi A. YusufEmail author
Living reference work entry

Later version available View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_5-1
  • 129 Downloads

Allomones are communication compounds that function in interspecific communication. They fall within the broad classes of chemical signals referred to as allelochemicals or allelomones. On contact with an individual of another species, an allomone evokes a behavioral and/or a physiological response in the receiver [4, 5, 6]. Allomones are of benefit to the releaser, usually to the detriment of the receiver. However, in some cases, they may also benefit the receiver by forestalling a poisoning or other deleterious result.

365体育网站Different types of behaviors are mediated by allomones. Key among these are their roles as defensive secretions against predators or other natural enemies, such as the formic acid sprayed by formicine ants and the venom from many social wasps, social bees, and ants.

A classic example representing the reverse of protection by a host using allomones is seen in the obligate bumble-bee social parasite Bombus norvegicus. Females of B. norvegicus uses dodecyl acetate (Fig. 1) to repel attacking workers of the host species, B. hypnorum [9], and establish themselves in the colony. These types of allomones are often referred to as “appeasement semiochemicals.”
Fig. 1

Dodecyl acetate an appeasement allomone and Trimetyl sulfide a novel natural product and allomone first characterized in social insects

Allomones can also be used by predators to lure their prey by exploiting the prey’s chemical communication system through production of pheromones used by the prey, a phenomenon known as “aggressive chemical mimicry.” The use of aggressive chemical mimicry is known in the relationship between the myrmecophilous staphylinid beetle Atemeles pubicollis and its host, the mound-making ant Formica polyctena [3], and those between the assassin bug Apiomerus pictipes that preys on the stingless bee Trigona fulviventris [8]. The social-parasitic paper wasp Polistes sulcifer uses specific allomones from its venom that destabilize the colony of its host, P. dominulus, by causing aggression between host nestmates [1]. Such allomones are known as “propaganda semiochemicals.”

The chemistry of allomones is diverse and not restricted to particular chemical classes or groups. Compounds including organic acids, alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, esters, hydrocarbons, phenolics, quinones, amines, alkaloids, sulfides (Fig. 2), steroids, and proteins have all been identified as allomones in various social insects [7]. A number of novel natural products were initially characterized as allomones of social hymenopterans including di- and trimethylsulfides (Fig. 1) isolated from ponerine ants, which provided the first evidence of sulfide biosynthesis in insects [2]. Because of their diversity and distinctive chemistry, allomones often have additional functions, such as pheromones in most alarm-defense and recognition systems in social hymenopterans.
Fig. 2

Chemical structure and classes of known allomones from social insects

Although allomones are regarded more as defensive weapons and often associated with pain, power, and fear, they can also function as propaganda, appeasement, and manipulative agents. Indeed, the possession of allomones and their use by some social insects like honey bees and ants earned these insects’ charismatic names like killer bees, bullet ants, and fire ants.

Cross-References

References

  1. 1.
    Brushini, C., & Cervo, R. (2011). Venom volatiles of the paper wasp social parasite Polistes sulcifer elicit intra-colonial aggression on the nest of the host species Polistes dominulus. Insectes Socaiux, 58, 383–390.
  2. 2.
    Crewe, R. M., & Fletcher, D. J. C. (1973). Ponerine ants secretions: The mandibular gland secretions of Paltothyreus tarsatus Fabr. Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa, 37, 291–298.
  3. 3.
    Hölldobler, B. (1971). Communication between ants and their guests. Scientific American, 22, 86–95.
  4. 4.
    Mahmoud, F. A., & Morgan, E. D. (1990). Chemical communication in insect communities: A guide to insect pheromones with special emphasis on social insects. Biological Reviews, 65, 227–247.
  5. 5.
    Nordlund, D. A. (1981). Semiochemicals: A review of the terminology. In D. A. Nordlund et al. (Eds.), Semiochemicals their role in pest control (p. 17). New York: Wiley.
  6. 6.
    Nordlund, D. A., & Lewis, W. J. (1976). Terminology of chemical releasing stimuli in intraspecific and interspecific interactions. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 2, 211–220.
  7. 7.
    Schmidt, J. O. (2009). Defensive behavior. In H. R. Vincent & T. C. Ring (Eds.), Encyclopedia of insects (2nd ed.). London: Elsevier. pp 255.
  8. 8.
    Weaver, E. C., Clarke, E. T., & Weaver, N. (1975). Attractiveness of an assassin bug to stingless bees. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 48, 17–18.
  9. 9.
    Zimma, B. O., Ayasse, M., Tengö, J., Ibarra, F., Schulz, C., & Francke, W. (2003). Do social parasitic bumblebess use chemical weapons? Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 198, 769–775.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Insects Research Group (SIRG)University of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa