Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 247-257

The sociality of Xylocopa pubescens: does a helper really help?

  • Katja HogendoornAffiliated withDepartment of Comparative Physiology, University of Utrecht
  • , Hayo H. W. VelthuisAffiliated withDepartment of Comparative Physiology, University of Utrecht

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Solitary and social nests of the facultatively social carpenter bee Xyclopa pubescens can be found simultaneously during the major part of the breeding season. Social nests contain a reproductively dominant forager and either her adult offspring or a formerly reproductive, guarding female. The costs and benefits to the dominant animal of allowing a defeated female to remain as a guard in the nest were analysed in terms of brood loss and brood gain. The costs included the probability that the guard would regain reproductively dominant status. The most important benefits were the protection that a guard provided against pollen robbery by conspecifics and the longer foraging time available to a forager when her nest was protected. The balance between costs and benefits depended on the severity of ecological constraints. During certain periods of intense competition for pollen or nests, the benefits clearly outweighed the costs.