Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 80–86

Queen and worker policing in the tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris

Authors

    • Laboratory of Entomology, Zoological InstituteUniversity of Leuven
    • Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study)
  • A. Tofilski
    • Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of Sheffield
  • F. L. W. Ratnieks
    • Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study)
    • Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of Sheffield
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-004-0892-4

Cite this article as:
Wenseleers, T., Tofilski, A. & Ratnieks, F.L.W. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2005) 58: 80. doi:10.1007/s00265-004-0892-4

Abstract

Insect societies are sometimes exploited by workers who reproduce selfishly rather than help to rear the queen’s offspring. This causes a conflict-of-interest with the mother queen and, frequently, with the non-reproductive workers as well. One mechanism that can reduce conflict is policing, whereby either the queen or other workers aggress egg-laying workers or destroy worker-laid eggs. Here we present the first direct observations of queen and worker policing in natural, unmanipulated colonies of a social insect, the tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris. Worker reproduction was common, with workers producing 50% of all male eggs. However, most worker-laid eggs, 91%, were policed within 1 day, whereas most queen-laid eggs, 96%, remained unharmed. The workers were responsible for 51% of all policing events and the queen for 49%. The workers and mother queen also commonly aggressed ovipositing workers, and successfully prevented them from depositing eggs in 14% and 6% of all attempted ovipositions. Hence, both queen policing and worker policing occur and policing acts via two distinct mechanisms: selective destruction of worker-laid eggs and aggression of ovipositing workers. At a general level, our study shows that both centralized and decentralized control can act together to suppress conflict within social groups.

Keywords

Social policingReproductive conflictSocial insectsVespinaeDolichovespula sylvestris

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005