Solitary behavior in a high-altitude population of the social sweat bee Halictus rubicundus (Hymenoptera: Halictidae)
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In the subalpine region of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, United States, Halictus rubicundus has a solitary life cycle, but it is social in other parts of its known range. The brood is protandrous, with a nearly equal investment in the sexes. Productivity averages 6.5 offspring per foundress female, similar to the second brood of social nests in New York, but less than the combined productivity of both New York broods. Leucophora sp. (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) is the principal cause of brood mortality in Colorado. Foundress females in about half the nests survive until brood emerge as adults. Retention of these foundresses decreases offspring mortality by 68%. Comparable abilities to express solitary behavior with a single brood may characterize other eusocial halictine lineages that have successfully invaded high altitudes in the Rocky Mountains. The apparent inability to do this may help explain the absence of other eusocial halictine bees and polistine wasps at high altitudes, despite their success at lower elevations in the same mountains. Presence or absence of this ability may help explain latitudinal distributions of these lineages in North America. Holarctic distributions of lineages with eusocial behavior can be explained by migration as solitary populations from Eurasia to North America across Pleistocene Bering land bridges, with re-expression of double-brooded, eusocial behavior when the species then extended their ranges southward in North America.
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