Free access
Volume 35, Number 2, March-April 2004
Information flow and group decision making in social bees
Page(s) 207 - 216
Apidologie 35 (2004) 207-216
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2004008

Group decision making during queen production in colonies of highly eusocial bees

David R. Tarpya and David C. Gilleyb

a   Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7613, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7613, USA
b   Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, 2000 East Allen Road, Tucson, AZ 85719-1596, USA

(Received 30 July 2003; revised 5 November 2003; accepted 30 November 2003)

Abstract - Colonies of social insects make numerous group decisions about foraging, nest maintenance, and reproduction. Queen production is a task whereby a colony's workers may exercise choices over which individuals to rear as gynes (unmated queens) and which gynes will survive to ultimately become queens. Here we assess the potential for how colonies of highly eusocial bees may exhibit such group decisions by reviewing the behaviors of stingless bee and honey bee workers during the gyne rearing, emergence, and elimination stages of queen production. We demonstrate that although the specific mechanisms whereby such decisions are manifested may vary among the taxa, there is a high potential for group decision making during queen production in eusocial bees. Given the importance of a queen to the inclusive fitness of all nestmates, such group decisions are likely to have a profound influence on the reproductive success of highly eusocial bee colonies. We briefly entertain the evolutionary mechanisms that may have shaped these group decision-making processes.

Key words: queen rearing / group decision making / queen elimination / colony reproduction / highly eusocial bees

Corresponding author: David R. Tarpy

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004