Social competition among gynes in halictine bees: The influence of bee size and pheromones on behavior

Brian H. Smith, Cornelia Weller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Solitary gynes of two species of social bees, Lasioglossum (Evylaeus) malachurum and L. (E.) pauxillum (Hymenoptera: Halictidae), were observed in the field and in the laboratory during the solitary (spring) phase of their life cycles. Fighting over nests among gynes of the former species is common when nests are being provisioned and can result in serious injury or even death to one or both interactants. The payoff is occasional acquisition of a nest. In contrast, fighting was never observed in the field among gynes of L. pauxillum. Several factors determine the outcome of such fights in L. malachuram, these include relative sizes of the two opponents as well as nest ownership. Dyadic interactions in the laboratory reveal that size influences the behavioral strategies of the gynes of both species, with the larger of two individuals in a dyadic interaction being on average more aggressive. Furthermore, in a second experimental series with L. malachurum, application to the smaller gyne of synthetically derived macrocyclic lactones found in the species' Dufour's gland pheromone mixture significantly decreased the aggressive tendencies of the larger such that its behavior was no longer significantly different from that for the smaller gyne. Therefore, among gynes, aggressive pheromonal signaling, coupled with other possible signal modalities, is probably an integral part in the communication system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-411
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Halictidae
  • pheromones
  • size
  • social competition
  • solitary gynes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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