Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 223-228

First online:

Queen influence on the shift from trophic to reproductive eggs laid by workers of the ponerine ant Pachycondyla apicalis

  • V. DietemannAffiliated withLaboratoire d'Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée, CNRS URA 667, Université Paris Nord, F-93430 Villetaneuse, France
  • , C. PeetersAffiliated withLaboratoire d'Ecologie, CNRS UMR 7625, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 7 quai Saint Bernard, F-75005 Paris, France, e-mail:

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


A single queen reproduces in the colonies of the ponerine ant Pachycondyla apicalis (87 ± 75 workers, n = 85; Fresneau, 1994). Although the castes are only weakly dimorphic, the workers cannot mate and are restricted to producing males. In five queenright colonies, workers laid trophic eggs only and had low levels of ovarian activity. Trophic eggs differ morphologically from reproductive eggs, and are immediately offered to the queen who eats them. In one orphaned colony, a proportion of workers laid reproductive eggs only. Another colony was divided with a double mesh, and after 11 days, workers lacking direct contact with the queen also began to lay reproductive eggs. The age of almost all workers was known in this colony, and their ovarian activity was correlated with age both in the presence and absence of the queen. Our data suggest that the putative queen pheromone is transmitted by close-range contact. The queen walks regularly around the nest, which could be a means of transmitting her signal. Importantly, workers in another two queenright colonies interacted aggressively and laid reproductive eggs, revealing the occasional existence of direct competition for male production between the castes.

Key words: Reproductive conflict, oogenesis, trophic eggs, age, queen signalling.