Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 8, pp 1143-1149

First online:

Worker policing and nest mate recognition in the ant Formica fusca

  • Heikki HelanteräAffiliated withDepartment of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of HelsinkiLaboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield Email author 
  • , Liselotte SundströmAffiliated withDepartment of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki

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A conflict over male production arises in social insects where workers are able to lay unfertilized male eggs. This happens because each female (queen or worker) is most closely related to her own sons and is thus predicted to reproduce. The conflict is modulated by worker policing where workers prevent each other from reproducing by aggression or egg cannibalism. In this study, we show that in the ant Formica fusca, worker policing occurs by egg cannibalism rather than by overt aggression among workers. Furthermore, we show that, contrary to bees, wasps and other ant species, egg discrimination in F. fusca is not based only on a universal queen signature chemical and that nest mate recognition of eggs occurs.


Formica Hymenoptera Worker policing Social conflict Nest mate recognition Social insect