Queen-worker conflict over male production and sex ratio in a facultatively polyandrous bumble bee, Bombus hypnorum: the consequences of nest usurpation.

Robert Paxton, P.A. Thorén, A. Estoup, J. Tengö

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63 Citations (Scopus)


Evolutionary conflicts among social hymenopteran nestmates are theoretically likely to arise over the production of males and the sex ratio. Analysis of these conflicts has become an important focus of research into the role of kin selection in shaping social traits of hymenopteran colonies. We employ microsatellite analysis of nestmates of one social hymenopteran, the primitively eusocial and monogynous bumblebee Bombus hypnorum, to evaluate these conflicts. In our 14 study colonies, B. hypnorum queens mated between one and six times (arithmetic mean 2.5). One male generally predominated, fathering most of the offspring, thus the effective number of matings was substantially lower (1–3.13; harmonic mean 1.26). In addition, microsatellite analysis allowed the detection of alien workers, those who could not have been the offspring of the queen, in approximately half the colonies. Alien workers within the same colony were probably sisters. Polyandry and alien workers resulted in high variation among colonies in their sociogenetic organization. Genetic data were consistent with the view that all males (n = 233 examined) were produced by a colony’s queen. Male parentage was therefore independent of the sociogenetic organization of the colony, suggesting that the queen, and not the workers, was in control of the laying of male-destined eggs. The population-wide sex ratio (fresh weight investment ratio) was weakly female biased. No evidence for colony-level adaptive sex ratio biasing could be detected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2489-2498
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001

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