The honey bee cuticle is covered by a thin layer of non-volatile hydrocarbons that are used for several functions including prevention of dehydration and chemical communication. The study of honey bee cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC) has been carried out for chemotaxonomic characterization (Carlson and Bolton, 1984), nestmate recognition (Dani et al., 2005) and elucidation of host-parasite relationships (Rickli et al., 1994; Salvy et al., 2001; Del Piccolo et al., 2010).
Cuticular hydrocarbons of the honey bee include straight chain saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons as well as branched saturated hydrocarbons. Chain length varies between 15 and 35, with odd numbered hydrocarbons being the most abundant; unsaturation is common at the 9 position in monoenes, but other positions are possible in longer chain hydrocarbons (Blomquist et al., 1980; Francis et al., 1985; Francis et al., 1989; Carlson et al., 1989). Some excellent reviews about insect CHC analysis have been published that can be used as a reference (e.g. Blomquist, 2010).