Intraspecific and interspecific social variation in the sweat bee Lasioglossum Malachurum and other members of the subgenus Evylaeus
Wyman, Laura M.
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Sweat bees exhibit a range of social behaviours, from solitary nesting, in which no workers are produced, to strong eusociality, in which workers exhibit a high degree of altruism, behaviour that is measured by the degree of personal reproductive sacrifice. Field studies were carried out for seven weeks during May-June 2000 in southern Greece in order to investigate intraspecific social variation, and test the hypothesis of a north-south cline of decreasing eusociality in the obligately eusocial sweat bee L. (E.) malachurum. A comparative study, using principal components analysis, was performed to determine if patterns of intraspecific social variation in L. malachurum reflect the patterns of social variation within the subgenus, Evylaeus, as a whole. The results of the field study reveal that, in Greece, two worker broods were produced followed by a third brood consisting of gynes, males and some workers, indicating that there was an overlap in worker and gyne production. There was strong caste distinction between queens and workers. Workers actively foraged and participated in nest construction as most workers (58%, n=303) had a high degree of mandibular wear. Workers did not participate in the oviposition of Brood 3 gynes since only 0.7% (n=278) of workers were mated. Furthermore, queen survival until the end of Brood 3 and a substantial size differential of 10.6% between queens and workers suggested that queen domination over worker behaviour during the early to mid-part of the colony cycle was plausible. Male production in Brood 3 by some workers was likely, since the timing of worker ovarian development corresponded with the timing of male production. These findings suggest that workers of the first two broods were primarily altruistic, but some (28%) Brood 1 (9%) and Brood 2 (19%) workers produced males, indicating that the degree of altruistic behaviour declined during the lifetime of the colony. In comparison with other L. malachurum populations in Europe, the Greek population of L. malachurum had a weaker social level as a result of the higher proportion of workers potentially involved in male production, thus 3 supporting the hypothesis of a southerly cline of decreasing eusociality. Furthermore, intraspecific variation in social level across Europe appears to be due to longer breeding seasons in more southerly locations that would promote the production of larger colonies and provide opportunities for workers to evade queen control. The comparative study using principal components analysis on 20 solitary (of the subgenera Evylaeus and Lasioglossum), eusocial and socially polymorphic Evylaeus species and populations reveals that six traits are closely associated with stronger eusociality in Evylaeus. These traits are: (1) a reduction in the proportion of males in the early brood(s); (2) a reduction in the proportion of females that mate; (3) an increase in the mean number of first brood workers; (4) a reduction in the proportion of females with developed ovaries; (5) an increase in size dimorphism between castes, and (6) nest guarding. These are traits that most significantly define principal component one and therefore distinguish social type as indicated by a clear separation of the eusocial and the solitary populations, with a socially polymorphic species falling in between. Furthermore, most of these traits are under foundress control and may suggest that the evolutionary loss or gain of eusociality is based on selection pressures on a founding female. Colony size and female ovarian development are common factors distinguishing social variation in L. malachurum and within the subgenus as a whole. The principal components analysis excluding the solitary species and the socially aberrant L. marginatum populations show the L. malachurum populations separated based on an increasing proportion of workers with developed ovaries as populations are found more south, lending further support to the hypothesis of a north-south cline of decreasing eusociality.