Bee-Inspired by Bees and Their Fragrances

13th February 2020

Those of us that are interested in the science of scent and fragrance cannot help but be drawn to the latest research around bees. In fact, what scientists Ramirez et al. have found is quite…

Those of us that are interested in the science of scent and fragrance cannot help but be drawn to the latest research around bees. In fact, what scientists Ramirez et al. have found is quite remarkable. 

That is the latest research in the field of Melittology, that is the study of bees to you and me, shows that those little fuzzy bumbles do a lot more than just collect up pollen. In fact, bees also create a use a type of perfume to attract the opposite sex.

A substance that Ramirez et al. have termed environmental perfumes. Which, of course, is of supreme interest to those of us interested in the latest trends in perfume development. 

The specific type of bee that does this is known as the orchard bees. In fact, it’s actually just the guys that create a perfume with the intent of getting all the lovely lady bees to flock to them. These clever little bees do this by fanning scents into the air with their wings which the female can then pick up on. 

The genius thing about this process is that the orchid bees, unlike most other animals, don’t actually produce these scents of pheromones themselves. Instead, they collect the fragrances from plants and fungi that they find on their pollen-collecting trips. Something that makes these little buzzers adept perfumers. 

This research is based on a lifetime’s work by Ramirez, of the UC Davis Center for Population Biology, and recent PhD graduate student Philipp Brand. They focused their efforts on looking at the mating behaviors of the orchid bee. With a specific focus on how chemical scents were essential to successful reproduction.  

In particular, they looked at only two of the hundreds of species of orchid bees – Euglossa dilemma and Euglossa viridissima. Which interestingly were a part of the same species originally, but had split off hundreds of thousands of years ago. In fact, despite these two species being the same in every way, including genetics and physical makeup, the researchers could tell them apart. The reason being that they inhabited two distinct geographical regions. 

Additionally, Ramirez et al. discovered that they could make and use perfume pheromones successfully that distinguished these different populations. A process that they found was controlled by genes. That is male bees have the genes needed to create pheromones that females of that species prefer. Something that means certain females are likely to mate with certain males over others. A pretty smart move that many of us echo every time will put on a scent that we know our other half will find irresistible.

In fact, what the scientists found was that each bee species had a lot of differences only in the gene responsible for collecting different perfume compounds to attract a mate. Basically, as time progressed, these genes mutated and evolved, becoming sensitive to different things. Something that then encourages the bees to seek out one type of fragrance over another. 

The crazy thing about this, in particular, is that various species usually have multiple genes that are different, even reaching into the hundreds. However, when it comes to the orchid bees, it is just a change in this single gene that separates them. 

In summary, Brand’s study shows that orchid bees use perfume as a way of communicating with each other in terms of finding a mate. In fact, they found it was so powerful that some males had the pick of the females they wanted. A phenomenon that worked so effectively it actually split the bee colony in two. Something very interesting indeed to those of us in the perfume industry that have the goal of looking to create more effective and enticing scents.  

Of course, you can get all the data straight from the bee’s mouth, so to speak by reading the full scientific paper here. Unfortunately, as of yet, such pheromone-heavy developments aren’t being used by the perfume industry. Although, if all this talk of bees has left you wanting, why not give a bee-inspired fragrance a go instead? 

One in particular to try is Buzzy. Which is likely to be a little different from the scents you are used to. The reason? Well, it’s not because of the gorgeous glass bottle. Although it is pretty, and it’s not the classy perfume packaging that will look great on your dresser either. What is different about buzzy fragrance is that it evokes the heady scents of bees, honey, and summer meadows. Therefore if you are looking to smell truly bee-autiful, then why not give Buzzy a try? 

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