Colony Social Organisation and Alternative Social Strategies in the Eastern Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica
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The eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, can nest either solitarily or in groups. In southern Ontario, Canada, near the northern edge of the range, most nests are social, containing groups of two to five adult females. Although social nests were much more frequent than solitary ones, they produced no more brood, so per capita brood productivity was actually lower for social females. Social females exhibited several reproductive strategies inferred from wing wear patterns, which reflect flight activity, and mandibular wear patterns, which reflect nest construction activity. Primary females accumulated a large degree of wing and mandibular wear and were presumed to be the primary reproductives in social nests. Secondary females accumulated less wing and mandibular wear and were probably subordinates awaiting opportunities to supersede primaries as dominant foragers and egg-layers. Tertiary females remained inactive, apparently deferring reproduction to the subsequent year. Social nesting, serial replacement of dominant females in social nests, and deferred reproduction are probably responses to severe competition for nests and nesting substrate.
KeywordsSocial polymorphism facultatively social Xylocopa reproductive strategy
I thank J. Vickruck and S. Rehan for comments on the manuscript, S. Prager for field work, and the Brock University gardeners for their enlightened attitude towards keeping large stinging insects in public areas. This work was supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant to the author.
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