Chemical communication in the honey bee is very complex with 15 exocrine glands known to produce various pheromonal chemicals. Among these pheromones, the queen retinue pheromone (QRP) is considered the most important as it is essential to maintaining social cohesion in the honey bee colony. This pheromone is composed of 9 components derived from various glands in the queen and elicits ‘aggregation’, antennating, licking and grooming of the queen by worker bees (Slessor et al., 1988; Wossler and Crewe, 1999; Keeling et al., 2003; Katzav-Gozansky et al. 2001; Slessor et al., 2005). The attractiveness of the queen and her pheromonal cues to worker bees is not stable but varies with the age and reproductive status of the queen, worker sensitivity, seasonal change and genetics (De Hazan et al., 1989; Pankiw et al., 1994; 2000; Kocher et al., 2009; Wossler et al., 2006).
Over the years, several compounds have been tested for their role as queen attractants using various bioassay setups. This section focuses on solvent extraction of pheromones from glands and the evaluation of both crude extract and its components in bioassays. Although we present these methods based on queen pheromones, worker and drone secretions can be analysed in the same manner.