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Complex sociogenetic organization and reproductive skew in a primitively eusocial sweat bee, Lasioglossum malachurum, as revealed by microsatellites


Dr R.J. Paxton. Fax: + 49 7071 295634; E-mail:


The sweat bees (Family Halictidae) are a socially diverse taxon in which eusociality has arisen independently numerous times. The obligate, primitively eusocial Lasioglossum malachurum, distributed widely throughout Europe, has been considered the zenith of sociality within halictids. A single queen heads a colony of smaller daughter workers which, by mid-summer, produce new sexuals (males and gynes), of which only the mated gynes overwinter to found new colonies the following spring. We excavated successfully 18 nests during the worker- and gyne-producing phases of the colony cycle and analysed each nest's queen and either all workers or all gynes using highly variable microsatellite loci developed specifically for this species. Three important points arise from our analyses. First, queens are facultatively polyandrous (queen effective mating frequency: range 1–3, harmonic mean 1.13). Second, queens may head colonies containing unrelated individuals (n= 6 of 18 nests), most probably a consequence of colony usurpation during the early phase of the colony cycle before worker emergence. Third, nonqueen's workers may, but the queen's own workers do not, lay fertilized eggs in the presence of the queen that successfully develop into gynes, in agreement with so-called ‘concession’ models of reproductive skew.