Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 234–237

Influence of age polyethism on longevity of workers in social insects

  • Adam Tofilski
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-001-0429-z

Cite this article as:
Tofilski, A. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2002) 51: 234. doi:10.1007/s00265-001-0429-z


Age polyethism is widespread among social insects and, as a rule, safe tasks are performed by workers earlier in life than are risky ones. Mathematical models were used to compare expected longevity of workers in colonies with and without age polyethism. The results of the models suggest that if aging does not depend on activity then age polyethism is profitable when safer tasks are performed earlier in life. If, however, aging depends on activity, age polyethism is profitable when safer tasks are performed earlier in life and if they are associated with higher aging-related mortality. On the other hand, age polyethism is not profitable if safer tasks are performed later in life, and if they are associated with lower aging-related mortality. Furthermore, if there is no aging, then age polyethism does not bring any benefits. Electronic supplementary material to this paper can be obtained by using the Springer Link server located at

Division of labor Age polyethism Life span Social insects Aging

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam Tofilski
    • 1
  1. 1.Bee Research Department, Agricultural University, 29 Listopada 52, 31425 Kraków, Poland