European Meeting of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects edition:4th location:La Roche-en-Ardenne date:28.8.-4.9.2008
The classic view of an insect colony as a harmonic society has been challenged in the last decades. It became clear that several conflicts ‘loom’ below the peaceful surface. One conflict is about male parentage, as some workers are capable of producing viable male eggs and are in some cases favoured by selection to do so. Yet, there are methods in place to reduce or solve these conflicts. Worker policing in social Hymenoptera (by removal of worker laid eggs) was predicted in 19841 and first reported in the honeybee (Apis mellifera) in 19892. To date, worker policing has been observed in 29 species3. Various models try to explain the origin and maintenance of policing in terms of inclusive fitness theory. Much effort has been invested into the search for signals or cues of egg provenance4. Less is known about the organization of policing within a colony. Recent studies in several taxa suggest a specialization in policing behaviour5.
We aim to provide the first insight on the task allocation of worker policing in honeybees. Therefore, we will follow cohorts of individually marked bees of known age in an observation hive, using focal sampling methods, to study the work profile of policing honeybee workers. A predisposition for policing might be indicated by inspecting cells, especially on drone combs. By introducing worker laid eggs in drone cells, we will be able to observe actual events of policing. Policing and non-policing bees of the same age will be sampled and their ovaries dissected. The policing of bees with developed ovaries could be interpreted as selfish if they thereby would gain higher chances to lay eggs themselves. A possibly inherited bias for policing will be detected by microsatellite analysis of patrilines.