Social insects

Social immunity and chemical communication in the honeybee: immune-challenged bees enter enforced or self-imposed exile

We examined the fate of experimentally immune-challenged worker honeybees that had been reintroduced to the hive. We find that they often leave the hive, both by 'altruistically' leaving under their own power, and by being dragged out by other workers. Using a chemical transfer experiment, we show that the latter response is mediated by chemicals present on the body surface of immune challenged workers.

Comparative transcriptomics of social insect queen pheromones

Many ants, bees, and wasps use similar or identical chemicals as queen pheromones, even though these taxa diverged 150MYA, and evolved eusociality independently. Here, we use mRNA sequencing to identify queen pheromone-sensitive genes in 4 ant and bee species, and show that pheromones affect many of the same transcriptional modules. Pheromone-sensitive genes tend to be ancient, positively selected, peripheral in transcriptomic networks, hypomethylated, and caste-specific in their expression.

Evolution in social insects

Question-driven research on the evolution and genetics of ants and bees

Onwards and upwards: a response to comments on Holman

Building a new research framework for social evolution: Intralocus caste antagonism

The breeding and non-breeding ‘castes’ of eusocial insects provide a striking example of role-specific selection, where each caste maximises fitness through different morphological, behavioural and physiological trait values. Typically, queens are …

Conserved queen pheromones in bumblebees: A reply to Amsalem et al

In a recent study, Amsalem, Orlova & Grozinger (2015) performed experiments with Bombus impatiens bumblebees to test the hypothesis that saturated cuticular hydrocarbons are evolutionarily conserved signals used to regulate reproductive division of …

Evolution of social insect polyphenism facilitated by the sex differentiation cascade

The major transition to eusociality required the evolution of a switch to canalize development into either a reproductive or a helper, the nature of which is currently unknown. Following predictions from the ‘theory of facilitated variation’, we …

Highly specific responses to queen pheromone in three Lasius ant species

Queen pheromones mediate the reproductive division of labor in social insect colonies and provide novel opportunities for investigating the evolution of animal communication. Previous work found that queens in the ant genus _Lasius_ produce several …

Queen pheromones modulate DNA methyltransferase activity in bee and ant workers

DNA methylation is emerging as an important regulator of polyphenism in the social insects. Research has concentrated on differences in methylation between queens and workers, though we hypothesized that methylation is involved in mediating other …

The evolution of queen pheromones in the ant genus Lasius

Queen pheromones are among the most important chemical messages regulating insect societies yet they remain largely undiscovered, hindering research into interesting proximate and ultimate questions. Identifying queen pheromones in multiple species …