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Spatial patterns of relatedness within nesting aggregations of the primitively eusocial sweat bee Lasioglossum malachurum


Limited natal dispersal can lead to marked spatial genetic structure, which potentially provides benefits to individuals through kin cooperation but also costs through kin competition. We often lack information on the spatial genetic structure of natural populations at a fine enough spatial scale to understand whether relatives nest close enough to interact. The primitively eusocial halictid bee Lasioglossum malachurum forms conspicuous nesting aggregations comprising up to thousands of nests. We test for spatial genetic structure in this species by genotyping one worker per nest from four discrete nesting aggregations around Tübingen, Germany, at 14 microsatellite loci. Genotypes were spatially autocorrelated at a very fine scale (<60 cm) within an aggregation for three of four aggregations, though genetic differentiation was non-existent or limited at coarser spatial scales between local or distant aggregations, respectively. Our results suggest that L. malachurum gynes often exhibit extremely limited natal dispersal, possibly because of the benefits of philopatry and kin cooperation or the avoidance of dispersal costs.

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We thank Claudia Mohra and Martin Fellendorf for collecting bees at Schützingen and Robin Moritz, Petra Leibe, and Michael Lattorff for providing laboratory equipment, technical assistance, and helpful discussion. We also thank the group of General Zoology at Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg for discussion and support, and the two anonymous reviewers and the Editor, Miriam Richards, for constructive comments that helped improve the manuscript. Bees were collected under Permit No. 56-6/8852.15 from the Regierungspräsidium Tübingen to RJP.

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Correspondence to A. Friedel.

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Friedel, A., Paxton, R.J. & Soro, A. Spatial patterns of relatedness within nesting aggregations of the primitively eusocial sweat bee Lasioglossum malachurum . Insect. Soc. 64, 465–475 (2017).

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  • Halictidae
  • Genetic structure
  • Microsatellite
  • Autocorrelation
  • Hymenoptera