Contest experience does not increase survivorship in honey bee queen duels
Animals engage in intraspecific conflict to increase their access to resources as well as improve their rank within the group. Prior experience can contribute to the outcome of conspecific contests and agonistic interactions. Winning a previous encounter can raise an individual’s probability of winning future contests, a phenomenon known as the winner effect. Likewise, a prior loss can reduce the probability of future wins, known as the loser effect. Theoretical and empirical research suggests that a winner effect can only exist in the presence of a loser effect. However, recent evidence suggests that this is not always the case. This finding prompted the present study, which explores whether there is a winner effect in virgin honey bee queens (Apis mellifera).Virgin queens compete with each other in fatal contests; losers do not survive, so there is no possibility of a loser effect, but sometimes virgin queens compete with more than one rival, so a winner effect is a possibility. To test for winner effects, we staged duels between pairs of age-matched virgin queens in the laboratory. The winner of each contest was then paired with another age-matched queen with no prior dueling experience. Winning a duel had a significant impact on the outcome of the second duel, but it reduced, rather than increased the probability of winning the second duel.
KeywordsAggression Apis mellifera Experience effects Queens Social interactions
We thank Zhenqing Chen, Hagai Shpigler, Ian Traniello, Frida Corona, Lindsey Block, Alison Sankey, Allyson Ray, and Terry Harrison for their technical assistance with this project. We also thank Claudia Lutz, Dr. Duane Jackson, and two anonymous reviewers for comments that helped improve the manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by a National Science Foundation IGERT Fellowship to Kari Jackson (Grant No. 1069157) (Andy Suarez, PI).
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