Chemical analyses – Department of Biology - University of Copenhagen

Social Evolution > CSE Research > Our toolbox > Chemical analyses

We use Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) to assess the spectrum of organic compounds in cuticular wax layers or glandular secretions of social insects. In addition, we use GC-EAD (Gas chromatography with electroantennographic detection) to investigate whether the insects react to specific compounds, and classical EAG (electroantennography) to quantify the detection of different chemical compounds by insects.

What are these analyses used for?

We use these chemical techniques to answer questions about the chemical composition or identity of:

  • Glandular secretions that are important for disease defence (e.g. metapleural glands),
  • Individual compounds that function as signals of status or fertility.
  • Cuticular hydrocarbon profiles that are used to recognize and possibly discriminate between nestmates or close kin.

Chemical studies are often complemented by behavioural experiments, where we investigate the biological function of chemicals that we identified with the above techniques.


Formica Wood ants; Fungus-growing antsHoney bees; Large Blue butterflies; Lycaenid butterflies; Megalomyrmex ants; Myrmica antsPharaoh ants; Symbiotic fungi; Army ants; Carpenter ants; Garden ants; Pachycondyla ants; Root aphids;