Queen longevity and fecundity affect conflict with workers over resource inheritance in a social insect

Edward J. Almond, Timothy J. Huggins, Liam P. Crowther, Joel D. Parker, Andrew F.G. Bourke (Lead Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Resource inheritance is a major source of conflict in animal societies. However, the assumptions and predictions of models of conflict over resource inheritance have not been systematically tested within a single system. We developed an inclusive fitness model for annual eusocial Hymenoptera that predicts a zone of conflict in which future reproductive workers are selected to enforce nest inheritance before the queen is selected to cede the nest. We experimentally tested key elements of this model in the bumble bee Bombus terrestris. In colonies from which queens were sequentially removed, queen tenure was significantly negatively associated with worker male production, confirming that workers gain direct fitness by usurping the queen. In unmanipulated colonies, queen fecundity decreased significantly over the latter part of the colony cycle, confirming that workers' indirect fitness from maintaining queens declines over time. Finally, in an experiment simulating loss of queen fecundity by removal of queens' eggs, worker-to-queen aggression increased significantly and aggressive workers were significantly more likely to become egg-layers, consistent with workers monitoring queen fecundity to assess the net benefit of future reproduction. Overall, by upholding key assumptions and predictions of the model, our results provide novel empirical support for kin-selected conflict over resource inheritance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-266
Number of pages11
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number2
Early online date26 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Bumblebee
  • Kin selection
  • Resource inheritance
  • Social insect
  • Worker reproduction

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