Mating and reproduction in the wasp Vespula germanica
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We used polymorphic microsatellite markers to study patterns of queen and worker reproduction in annual nests of the wasp Vespula germanica in its introduced range in Australia. We found that queens were typically polyandrous (at least 85.4% mated multiply), with the minimum number of male mates ranging from 1 to 7. Calculations based on nestmate worker relatedness (r=0.46) yielded an estimate of effective queen mating frequency of 2.35. Queens were unrelated to their mates (r=–0.01), indicating that mating occurred at random within Australian V. germanica populations. In addition, the distribution of the minimum number of male mates of queens followed a Poisson distribution. This result suggested that the probability of a queen remating was not affected by previous copulations. We also discovered that mates of polyandrous queens contributed unequally to progeny production leading to significant male reproductive skew within nests. Analyses of nestmate male genotypes revealed that queens usually produced most or all males. However, workers were responsible for the production of many males in a few nests, and, in contrast to theoretical expectations, two of these nests were apparently queenright.
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