Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 5, pp 843–852 | Cite as

Parental care and sexual size dimorphism in wasps and bees

Original Paper


Sexual size dimorphism, in which one sex is larger than the other, occurs when body size has differential effects on the fitness of males and females. Mammals and birds usually have male-biased size dimorphism, probably because of strong sexual competition among males. Invertebrates usually have female-biased size dimorphism, perhaps because their inflexible exoskeletons limit ovary size, leading to a strong correlation between female body size and fecundity. In this paper, we test whether an additional factor, the type of parental care provided, affects the degree of sexual size dimorphism. Among wasps and bees, there is a contrast between provisioning taxa, in which females must gather and transport heavy loads of provisions to nests they have constructed, and non-provisioning taxa, in which females lay eggs but do not construct nests or transport provisions. Males have no role in parental care in either case. An analysis of British wasps and bees shows that provisioning taxa have significantly more female-biased size dimorphism than non-provisioning taxa. This is true for simple cross‑species comparisons and after controlling for phylogeny. Our data imply that the demands of carrying provision loads are at least part of the explanation for this pattern. Thus, sexual size dimorphism is greatest in pompilid wasps, which carry the heaviest prey items. Bees, which transport minute pollen grains, exhibit the least dimorphism. We also find that cavity‑nesting species, in which nest construction costs may be minimized, exhibit reduced dimorphism, but this was not significant after controlling for phylogeny.


Sexual dimorphism Parental care Hymenoptera Wasps Bees 


  1. Agrawal AF, Combs N, Brodie ED (2005) Insights into the costs of complex maternal care behavior in the burrower bug (Sehirus cinctus). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 57:566–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alcock J, Barrows EM, Gordh G, van Hubbard L, Kirkendall L, Pyle DW, Ponder TL, Zalom FG (1978) The ecology and evolution of male reproductive behaviour in the bees and wasps. Zool J Linn Soc 64:293–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander B, Rozen JGJ (1987) Ovaries, ovarioles, and oocytes in parasitic bees. Pan Pac Entomol 63:155–164Google Scholar
  4. Berry JF, Shine R (1980) Sexual size dimorphism and sexual selection in turtles (order Testudines). Oecologia 44:185–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Betts C (ed) (1986) The Hymenopterist’s handbook. The Amateur Entomological Society, Hanworth, UKGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanckenhorn WU, Dixon AFG, Fairbairn DJ, Foellmer MW, Gibert P, van der Linde K, Meier R, Nylin S, Pitnick S, Schoff C, Signorelli M, Teder T, Wiklund C (2007) Proximate causes of Rensch’s rule: Does sexual size dimorphism in arthropods result from sex differences in development time. Am Nat 169:245–257PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bohart RM, Menke AS (1976) Sphecid Wasps of the World: a generic revision. Univ. California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  8. Brady SG, Sipes S, Pearson A, Danforth BN (2006) Recent and simultaneous origins of eusociality in halictid bees. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 273:1643–1649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bristowe WS (1948) Notes on the habits and prey of twenty species of British hunting wasps. Proc Linn Soc Lond 160:12–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cane JH (1987) Estimation of bee size using intertegular span (Apoidea). J Kans Entomol Soc 60:145–147Google Scholar
  11. Clutton–Brock TH, Harvey PH, Rudder B (1977) Sexual size dimorphism, socionomic sex ratio and body weight in primates. Nature 269:797–800PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cox RM (2006) A test of the reproductive cost hypothesis for sexual size dimorphism in Yarrow’s spiny lizard Sceloporus jarrovii. J Anim Ecol 75:1361–1369PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Danforth BN, Sipes S, Fang J, Brady SG (2006) The history of early bee diversification based on five genes plus morphology. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103:15118–15123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Danks HV (1970) Biology of some stem-nesting aculeate Hymenoptera. Trans R Entomol Soc Lond 122:321–395Google Scholar
  15. Day MC (1988) Spider wasps. Hymenoptera: Pompilidae, Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects vol 6, part 4. Royal Entomological Society of London, LondonGoogle Scholar
  16. Edwards R (ed) (1997–1998) Provisional atlas of the aculeate Hymenoptera of Britain and Ireland, parts 1–2. Biological Records Centre, HuntingdonGoogle Scholar
  17. Edwards R, Broad G (eds) (2005–2006) Provisional atlas of the aculeate Hymenoptera of Britain and Ireland, parts 5–6. Biological Records Centre, HuntingdonGoogle Scholar
  18. Eggleton P, Belshaw R (1992) Insect parasitoids: an evolutionary overview. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 337:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Evans HE (1969) Phoretic copulation in the Hymenoptera. Entomol News 80:113–124Google Scholar
  20. Fairbairn DJ (1997) Allometry for sexual size dimorphism: pattern and process in the coevolution of body size in males and females. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 28:659–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fairbairn DJ, Preziozi RF (1994) Sexual selection and the evolution of allometry for sexual size dimorphism in the water strider, Aquarius remigis. Am Nat 144:101–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Field J (1992a) Patterns of nest provisioning and parental investment in the solitary digger wasp Ammophila sabulosa. Ecol Entomol 17:43–51Google Scholar
  23. Field J (1992b) Intraspecific parasitism and nest defence in the solitary pompilid wasp Anoplius viaticus (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). J Zool, Lond 228:341–350Google Scholar
  24. Field J (1992c) Guild structure in solitary spider-hunting wasps (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) compared to null model predictions. Ecol Entomol 17:198–208Google Scholar
  25. Field J, Foster WA (1995) Nest co-occupation in the digger wasp Cerceris arenaria: cooperation or usurpation. Anim Behav 50:99–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Field J, Turner E, Fayle T, Foster WA (2007) Costs of egg-laying and offspring provisioning: multifaceted parental investment in a digger wasp. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 274:445–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gilbert JJ (1983) Sexual dimorphism in zooplankton (Copepoda, Cladocera, and Rotifera). Ann Rev Ecolog Syst 14:1–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Grafen A (1989) The phylogenetic regression. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B 326:119–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harvey PH, Pagel MD (1991) The comparative method in evolutionary biology. Oxford Univ. Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  30. Harvey PH, Rambaut A (2000) Comparative analyses for adaptive radiations. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B Biol Sci 355:1599–1605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Head G (1995) Selection on fecundity and variation in the degree of sexual size dimorphism among spider species (class Araneae). Evolution 49:776–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hurlbutt B (1987) Sexual size dimorphism in parasitoid wasps. Biol J Linn Soc 30:63–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Iwata K (1955) The comparative anatomy of the ovary in Hymenoptera. Part 1. Aculeata. Mushi 29:17–37Google Scholar
  34. Kruger O (2005) The evolution of reversed sexual size dimorphism in hawks, falcons and owls: A comparative study. Evol Ecol 19:467–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kurczewski FE, Elliott NB (1978) Nesting behaviour and ecology of Tachysphex pechumani Krombein (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). J Kans Entomol Soc 51:765–780Google Scholar
  36. Lindenfors P, Tullberg BS, Biuw M (2002) Phylogenetic analyses of sexual selection and sexual size dimorphism in pinnipeds. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 52:188–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lomholdt O (1984) The Sphecidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica vol 4, 2nd edn. Scandinavian Science, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  38. Melo GAR (1999) Phylogenetic relationships and classification of the major lineages of Apoidea (Hymenoptera), with emphasis on the crabronid wasps. Sci Pap, Nat Hist Mus, University of Kansas 14:1–55Google Scholar
  39. Michener CD (2000) The Bees of the World. John Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  40. Nylin S, Wedell N (1994) Sexual size dimorphism and comparative methods. In: Eggleton P, Vane–Wright RI (eds) Phylogenetics and ecology. Academic, LondonGoogle Scholar
  41. O'Neill KM (1985) Egg size, prey size and sexual size dimorphism in digger wasps (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). Can J Zool 63:2187–2193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. O’Neill KM (2001) Solitary wasps. Cornell University Press, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  43. Ohl M, Linde D (2003) Ovaries, ovarioles, and oocytes in apoid wasps, with special reference to cleptoparasitic species (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: “Sphecidae”). J Kans Entomol Soc 76:147–159Google Scholar
  44. Petersson E (1995) Male load-lifting capacity and mating success in the swarming caddis fly Athripsodes cinereus. Physiol Entomol 20:66–70Google Scholar
  45. Price T (1997) Correlated evolution and independent contrasts. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 352:519–529PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Purvis A, Rambaut A (1995a) Comparative-analysis by independent contrasts (CAIC)—an Apple-Macintosh application for analyzing comparative data. Comput Appl Biosci 11:247–251PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Purvis A, Rambaut A (1995b) Comparative analysis by independent contrasts, version 2.0.0 User's guide. Oxford University, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  48. Ralls K (1976) Mammals in which females are larger than males. Q Rev Biol 51:245–276PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Richards OW (1980) Scolioidea, Vespoidea and Sphecoidea. Hymenoptera, Aculeata, Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects vol 6, part 3(b). Royal Entomological Society of London, LondonGoogle Scholar
  50. Ronquist F (1999) Phylogeny of the Hymenoptera (Insecta): the state of the art. Zool Scr 28:3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rosenheim JA, Nonacs P, Mangel M (1996) Sex ratios and multifaceted parental investment. Am Nat 148:501–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Roubik DW (1989) Ecology and natural history of tropical bees. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  53. Severinghaus LB, Kurtak BH, Eickwort GC (1981) The reproductive behaviour of Anthidium manicatum (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) and the significance of size for territorial males. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 9:51–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stearns SC (1977) The evolution of life-history traits: a critique of the theory and a review of the data. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 8:145–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Strohm E, Marliani A (2002) The cost of parental care: prey hunting in a digger wasp. Behav Ecol 13:52–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tallamy DW, Denno RF (1982) Life-history trade-offs in Gargaphia solani (Hemiptera, Tingidae)—the cost of reproduction. Ecology 63:616–620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tornberg R, Monkkonen M, Pahkala M (1999) Changes in diet and morphology of Finnish goshawks from 1960s to 1990s. Oecologia 121:369–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Weimerskirch H, Le Corre M, Ropert-Coudert Y, Kato A, Marsac F (2006) Sex-specific foraging behaviour in a seabird with reversed sexual dimorphism: the red-footed booby. Oecologia 146:681–691PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wheeler P, Greenwood PJ (1983) The evolution of reversed sexual size dimorphism in birds of prey. Oikos 40:145–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical OncologyMount Vernon HospitalNorthwood, MiddlesexUK
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Environmental Science, School of Life Sciences, John Maynard Smith BuildingUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

Personalised recommendations