Co-occurrence of three types of egg policing in the Norwegian wasp Dolichovespula norwegica
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In insect societies, workers often try to challenge the reproductive monopoly of the queen by laying their own eggs. Successful worker reproduction, however, is frequently prevented by queen policing or worker policing, whereby either the mother queen or non-reproductive workers selectively kill worker-laid eggs. Recently, a third mechanism—“selfish” worker policing—has also been described in which the workers selectively police worker-laid eggs but also lay eggs themselves. Here, we present results from the monogynous wasp Dolichovespula norwegica, which show that all three kinds of policing—queen policing, worker policing and “selfish” worker policing—co-occur. The net effect of these three kinds of policing collectively favoured the queen’s reproduction, as within 1 day 44% of the worker-laid eggs versus only 8% of the queen-laid eggs were eaten. Of the worker-laid eggs that were killed by workers, approximately two thirds were eaten by the reproductive workers even though these made up only a small proportion, 8%, of the work force. This means that policing workers obtained both direct fitness benefits as well as indirect (inclusive) fitness. In addition, we show that worker policing was carried out by a limited, specialised set of workers that was estimated to constitute approximately one quarter of the whole colony and of which 66% were non-reproductive.
KeywordsReproductive conflict Vespinae wasps Worker reproduction Selfish worker policing Queen policing Worker policing
We would like to thank the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation through Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT-Vlaanderen) and the Research Foundation Flanders (grant no. GNM-B5996-KAN2006) for funding. We are also very grateful to Kristel Vuerinckx and Tom Vanhove for help with video analysis and to Kristien Erven for help with the genotyping.
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