Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 235-247

First online:

The morphology and behavior of dimorphic males in Perdita portalis (Hymenoptera : Andrenidae)

  • Bryan N. DanforthAffiliated withSnow Entomological Museum, Department of Entomology, University of Kansas

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In Perdita portalis, a ground nesting, communal bee, males are clearly dimorphic. The two male morphs are easily distinguished based on head size and shape into (1) a flight-capable, small-headed (SH) morph that resembles the males of other closely related species and (2) a flightless, large-headed (LH) morph that possesses numerous derived traits, such as reduced compound eyes, enlarged facial foveae and fully atrophied indirect flight muscles. The SH morph occurs exclusively on flowers while the LH morph is found only in nests with females. While on flowers, SH males are aggressive, fighting with conspecific males and heterospecific male and female bees, and they mate frequently with foraging females. Using artificial observation nests placed in the field, I observed the behavior of females and LH males within their subterranean nests. LH males are aggressive fighters; males attacked each other with mandibles agape, and male-male fights always ended in the death of one male. LH males are highly attentive to the reproductive behavior of females; they spend increasing amounts of time near open cells during cell provisioning, and mating only takes place immediately prior to oviposition when females are forming the accumulated pollen and nectar into a ball. Based on larvae reared to adulthood in the laboratory, the two male morphs occur in equal proportions. The behavior of males in closely related species, especially P. texana, and the origin and maintenance of male dimorphism are discussed.