Pheromonal dominance and the selection of a socially parasitic honeybee worker lineage (Apis mellifera capensis Esch.)
DIETEMANN, V. | NEUMANN, P. | HÄRTEL, S. | PIRK, C.W.W. | CREWE, R.M.
The recent invasion by self-replicating socially parasitic Cape honeybee workers, Apis mellifera capensis, of colonies of the neighbouring African subspecies Apis mellifera scutellata represents an opportunity to study evolution of intraspecific parasitism in real time. As honeybee workers compete pheromonally for reproductive dominance, and as A. m. capensis workers readily produce queen-like pheromones, we hypothesized that these semiochemicals promoted the evolution of intraspecific social parasitism. Remarkably, the offspring of a single worker became established as a parasite in A. m. scutellata's range. This could have resulted from extreme selection among different clonal parasitic worker lineages. Using pheromonal contest experiments, we show that the selected parasitic lineage dominates in the production of mandibular gland pheromones over all other competitors to which it is exposed. Our results suggest that mandibular gland pheromones played a key role in the evolution of intraspecific social parasitism in the honeybee and in the selection of a single genotype of parasitic workers.Show more [+] Less [-]