Queen and worker policing in the tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris

Wenseleers, T, Tofilski, A and Ratnieks, F L W (2005) Queen and worker policing in the tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 58 (1). pp. 80-86. ISSN 0340-5443

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Insect societies are sometimes exploited by workers who reproduce selfishly rather than help to rear the queens offspring. This causes a conflict-of-interest with the mother queen and, frequently, with the non-reproductive workers as well. One mechanism that can reduce conflict is policing, whereby either the queen or other workers aggress egg-laying workers or destroy worker-laid eggs. Here we present the first direct observations of queen and worker policing in natural, unmanipulated colonies of a social insect, the tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris. Worker reproduction was common, with workers producing 50% of all male eggs. However, most worker-laid eggs, 91%, were policed within 1 day, whereas most queen-laid eggs, 96%, remained unharmed. The workers were responsible for 51% of all policing events and the queen for 49%. The workers and mother queen also commonly aggressed ovipositing workers, and successfully prevented them from depositing eggs in 14% and 6% of all attempted ovipositions. Hence, both queen policing and worker policing occur and policing acts via two distinct mechanisms: selective destruction of worker-laid eggs and aggression of ovipositing workers. At a general level, our study shows that both centralized and decentralized control can act together to suppress conflict within social groups.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Francis Ratnieks
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:21
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2012 15:16
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/20269
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