Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 8, pp 1143–1149 | Cite as

Worker policing and nest mate recognition in the ant Formica fusca

  • Heikki Helanterä
  • Liselotte Sundström
Original Paper


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 



We thank the anonymous referees of a previous version of the manuscript for constructive comments. The work was funded by The Academy of Finland (grants number 42725, 206505 and 213821), the Graduate School for Evolutionary Ecology and the Finnish Cultural Foundation. The experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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