Reproductive skew, male parentage and social
parasitism in the facultatively polygyne eusocial
bee Melipona bicolor
Denise Araujo Alves1,2, Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca2, Johan Billen3, Tom Wenseleers3
Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Bioscience Institute, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Zoological Institute, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
Stingless bees are highly eusocial bees which are typically characterised by having colonies
that are headed by one single-mated queen. A major exception to this pattern, however, is found in
the stingless bee Melipona bicolor, where several queens may coexist and share reproduction inside
the colony. Here we determine for the first time the detailed sociogenetic organisation of M. bicolor
colonies and test various ultimate theories with respect to the adaptive benefits of polygyny in this
species. We show that across 9 colonies, queen number varied from 1 to 3, but that for the polygyne
colonies there was a very high skew in reproduction among the different queens. This resulted in a
mean effective maternity of 1.1, and in workers collectively being more highly related to the sons of
other workers (r = 0.35) than to the sons of the queen(s). In line with this, we found that a significant
proportion of the adult males, 37.4%, were the sons of the workers rather than of the queen. Finally,
we show that polygyny did not increase colony productivity, although there were two cases where the
adoption of a new queen could have been caused by a declining fertility of the old one.
Anais do X Encontro sobre Abelhas, 2012
Ribeirão Preto – SP – Brasil

Reproductive skew, male parentage and social parasitism in the