Alloparental care in a solitary bee
Lewis, Vern, R.E.
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Research into the evolutionary origins of sociality in insect colonies is changing emphasis from understanding how eusociality is maintained to how insects transition from solitary to social lifestyles. The pygmy carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.) offer an excellent model for investigating such factors as they have been historically thought of as solitary but have recently been shown to be socially polymorphic, which may indicate that they are currently in a transitive phase. By utilizing behavioural observation and experimental removal protocols, I show that extended parental care, as well as sibling care in Ceratina calcarata plays an important role in offspring development. I found, upon removal of the mother, that specifically produced ‘dwarf’ female offspring take over parental care roles in the nest. The existence of alloparental care and generational overlap suggests that although they are classified as solitary bees, C. calcarata possess the prerequisite behavioural repertoire for sociality.