Journal of Insect Behavior

, 21:394 | Cite as

Body Size Shapes Caste Expression, and Cleptoparasitism Reduces Body Size in the Facultatively Eusocial Bees Megalopta (Hymenoptera: Halictidae)

  • Adam R. Smith
  • William T. Wcislo
  • Sean O’Donnell
Article

Abstract

We used the facultatively social sweat bee Megalopta genalis (Halictidae) to test whether body size is associated with social caste. Behavioral observations showed that non-reproductive foragers were significantly smaller than reproductive nest mate queens, and foragers were also smaller than presumed pre-dispersal reproductives. Moreover, among females from field-collected nests without behavioral observations, relative body size correlated with relative ovary size. Reproductive status is not a direct result of body size, as body size was not significantly associated with either ovary size or fecundity among both solitary and social reproductives. Reproductive status is apparently an outcome of social competition for reproductive dominance, and status is influenced by size relative to nest mates. Our study is the first to demonstrate an association of body size with caste expression in a facultatively social species with relatively weak seasonal constraints on independent nesting. Larvae of a parasitic fly (Fiebrigella sp., Chloropidae) consume pollen provisions stored in nest cells of M. genalis and M. ecuadoria. We tested whether fly parasitism of M. genalis reduces body size. Parasitized females are significantly smaller as adults than their unparasitized nestmates. This reduction is of a similar magnitude to the size differences between castes, and has the potential to shape host reproductive options by influencing competition with nest mates. We present data on the prevalence of parasitism from four collections of M. genalis and two collections of M. ecuadoria from Barro Colorado Island, Panama, and La Selva, Costa Rica.

Keywords

Body size caste differentiation facultative eusociality reproductive altruism parasitism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam R. Smith
    • 1
  • William T. Wcislo
    • 2
  • Sean O’Donnell
    • 1
  1. 1.Animal Behavior Area, Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepública de Panamá
  3. 3.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepública de Panamá

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