Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 479–490 | Cite as

Queen–worker aggression in the facultatively eusocial bee Megalopta genalis

  • A. R. SmithEmail author
  • M. Simons
  • V. Bazarko
  • J. Harach
  • M. A. Seid
Research Article


The establishment of reproductive division of labor in primitively eusocial insects is typically based on dominance interactions from the queen toward her worker daughters. We used a standardized behavioral assay, the circle tube, to observe aggressive and other behaviors between the queen and workers of field-collected social colonies of the sweat bee, Megalopta genalis. Queens generally expressed higher levels of aggressive and dominant behaviors than workers. Workers performed two behaviors, ‘C-posture’ and ‘reverse’, more frequently than queens. Our data suggest a defensive function for C-posture in workers, as it correlated with the expression of queen aggression. Within queens, the aggressive behaviors ‘nudge’, ‘bite’, ‘push’, and ‘chase’ correlated with each other in their frequencies of expression; the other two behaviors that were performed more often by queens (‘back up’ and ‘back into’) did not. The two behaviors performed more often by workers, ‘C-posture’ and ‘reverse’, were not correlated in workers. Queen and worker activity levels were correlated. Body size correlated with increased expression of queen-like behavior in both the queen and worker castes. Queens generally were bigger and had larger ovaries than workers. Queen–worker body size and ovary size differences correlated with behavioral differences. The effects of body size suggest an influence of developmental nutrition on adult behavior.


Social cooperation Amines Circle tube Sweat bee Halictidae Augochlorini 



This work was supported by NSF Grant #17-1028536545 to ARS and MAS. Ling Yi and Veronica Sinotte helped collect nests.

Supplementary material

40_2019_712_MOESM1_ESM.docx (175 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 175 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. R. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Simons
    • 1
    • 3
  • V. Bazarko
    • 4
  • J. Harach
    • 2
  • M. A. Seid
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesGeorge Washington UniversityWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.Program in Neuroscience, Biology DepartmentUniversity of ScrantonScrantonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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