Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 85–93 | Cite as

Effects of social organization and resource availability on brood parasitism in the facultatively social nocturnal bee Megalopta genalis

  • Adam Smith
  • Christine Harper
  • Karen Kapheim
  • Meagan Simons
  • Callum Kingwell
  • William Wcislo
Research Article


Understanding the ecological benefits that may select for the evolution of living in groups rather than solitarily is key to understanding the evolution of social cooperation. Defense against natural enemies, such as parasites and predators, is generally acknowledged to be such a benefit, but most studies focus only on predators. Among the bees, parasitism is a major source of brood mortality. Here we use the nocturnal, Neotropical, facultatively social bee Megalopta genalis (Halictidae) to directly compare parasitism rates between social and solitary nests at the same site during times of high and low resource availability. We focus on four parasites: one that eats some pollen but does not kill host offspring [the fly Fiebrigella sp (Chloropidae)] and three that kill host offspring (the beetle Macrosiagon gracilis (Rhipiphoridae), the wasp Lophostigma cincta (Mutillidae), and the congeneric bee M. Noctoraptor byroni). We found no difference in parasitism between social and solitary nests for the four parasites tested. Across all nests, 25–31% of brood cells were parasitized by Lophostigma sp., with parasitism increasing from the dry to wet season, although this seasonal effect was significant only for social nests. Only ~ 4% of brood cells were parasitized by one of the other three parasites, and M. byroni was only found in social host nests. Our data reveal that Megalopta have low rates of parasitism overall, and that this is not a function of social organization or resource availability. Limited nocturnal foraging time and foraging offset from the activity patterns of diurnal parasites may instead play a larger role in keeping parasitism rates low.


Brood parasitism Parasitoid Cleptoparasitism Social evolution 



ARS was funded by fellowships from SENACYT Panama, the National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution, and startup funds from George Washington University. KMK was supported by the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station (proj, 1297) and Utah State University. CJK was supported by an Ernst Mayr fellowship from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and by Cornell University. Hannah Jefress, Gabe Trujillo, Maija Mallula, Madeline Ostwald, Samuel Schaffer-Morrison, and Angelly Vasquez provided field or data entry assistance.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam Smith
    • 1
  • Christine Harper
    • 1
    • 5
  • Karen Kapheim
    • 2
    • 4
  • Meagan Simons
    • 1
    • 6
  • Callum Kingwell
    • 3
    • 4
  • William Wcislo
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesGeorge Washington UniversityWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  3. 3.Department of Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  4. 4.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanama CityPanama
  5. 5.Center for Functional Anatomy and EvolutionJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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