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Fellows Directory

Colin Butler

Colin Butler

Dr Colin Butler OBE FRS


Elected: 1970


Colin Butler made important contributions to entomology, especially to knowledge about the ways insect communities are organised. His field studies of honey bees explained much of their behaviour and helped to solve pollination problems in crops. Outstanding among his discoveries about mechanisms controlling behaviour in the hive was the recognition of ‘queen substance’; he showed how this, produced in the mandibular glands of the queen, is distributed through a colony and inhibits workers from rearing queens and swarming. His collaboration with Robert Kenneth Callow led to its identification and synthesis. He showed that queen bees produce another inhibiting substance, this one volatile and not made only in the mandibular glands, and gained evidence that actions other than queen-rearing are also governed by specific substances. There is already reason to consider that his conclusions about the chemical control of social behaviour apply to other gregarious insects than bees.

Dr Colin Butler OBE FRS died on 4 January 2016.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Ethology, Agricultural and forest science, Ecology (incl behavioural ecology), Organismal biology (including invertebrate and vertebrate zoology)
  • Anatomy, physiology and neurosciences
    • Development and control of behaviour
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