Direct assessment of queen quality and lack of worker suppression in a paper wasp

Jürgen Liebig, Thibaud Monnin, Stefano Turillazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Assessing a conspecific's potential is often crucial to increase one's fitness, e.g. in female choice, contests with rivals or reproductive conflicts in animal societies. In the latter, helpers benefit from accurately assessing the fertility of the breeder as an indication of inclusive fitness. There is evidence that this can be achieved using chemical correlates of reproductive activity. Here, we show that queen quality can be assessed by directly monitoring her reproductive output. In the paper wasp Polistes dominulus, we mimicked a decrease in queen fertility by regularly removing brood. This triggered ovarian development and egg-laying by many workers, which strongly suggests that brood abundance is a reliable cue of queen quality. Brood abundance can be monitored when workers perform regular brood care in small size societies where each brood element is kept in a separate cell. Our results also show that although the queen was not manipulated, and thus remained healthy and fully fertile, she did not control worker egg-laying. Nevertheless, when workers laid eggs, the queen secured a near reproductive monopoly by selectively destroying these eggs, a mechanism known as 'queen policing'. By contrast, workers destroyed comparatively few queen-laid eggs, but did destroy each other's eggs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1339-1344
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1570
StatePublished - Jul 7 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Conflict
  • Honest signalling
  • Oophagy
  • Parental manipulation
  • Polistes
  • Self-restraint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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