Miniature queens in stingless bees: basic facts and evolutionary hypotheses
Ribeiro, Marcia F. × Wenseleers, Tom Santos Filho, Persio S. Alves, Denise A. #
Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Institute für Bienenforschung
Apidologie vol:37 issue:2 pages:191-206
Some stingless bees are known to produce both large queens, reared from larger royal cells, and small "miniature" queens, reared from worker cells. Here we review what is known about miniature queens, and evaluate some major evolutionary hypotheses as to why they are produced. One hypothesis - that miniature queens are females who selfishly evade an intended worker fate - is shown to receive significant support. In particular, there is increasing evidence that the decision to become a miniature queen may be under genetic control of the developing females themselves. In addition, data from several species show that females gain significant fitness benefits from doing so, since miniature queens are frequently observed heading colonies and often are as productive as normal-sized queens. On the other hand, in some species miniature queens have a reduced fecundity or may have lower chances of being chosen as a new queen. This shows that the strategy may also have costs. Queens of the genus Melipona, which are also reared from worker-sized cells, are suggested to have the same evolutionary origins as miniature queens.