acta ethologica

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 15–23 | Cite as

Socially peaceful: foragers of the eusocial bee Lasioglossum malachurum are not aggressive against non-nestmates in circle-tube arenas

  • Carlo Polidori
  • Luigimaria Borruso
Original Paper


Due to the universally found nestmate recognition in eusocial insects, it is predictable that non-nestmates interact aggressively. In sweat bees (Hymenoptera: Halictidae), this trend was largely shown for queen–queen interactions, but data on worker–worker interactions are still scarce and somehow controversial. We studied behavioural interactions between foragers of the eusocial and ground-nesting bee Lasioglossum malachurum within circle-tubes. Independently of colony membership, bees exhibited high frequencies of cooperative behaviours, together with lack of aggression and moderate avoidance of social interactions. The cooperative mutual passing was the most frequently recorded behaviour. Size difference between the opponents had no effects on cooperation or avoidance. In a heterospecific experiment, bee foragers were observed to react more aggressively and to pass very rarely towards cuckoo bees, suggesting that our results were not biased by the circle-tube methodology. Our results and comparisons with other bee species suggest that studying worker interactions may be not enough to predict the social organisation in bees. Whatever the evolutionary meaning of this generalised tolerance towards conspecifics, the present findings are somehow in agreement with recent studies showing that L. malachurum colonies may have imperfect nestmate recognition and often include a mixture of related and unrelated workers.


Halictidae Circle-tube experiment Sociality Worker behaviour Nestmate discrimination 



We thank the Maremma Regional Park, which gave permission to perform the experiments in the area.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia, Sezione di Zoologia e CitologiaUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Science and TechnologyFree University of Bozen-BolzanoBolzanoItaly

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