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Abstract

The development of about 20 relatively small nests of Xylocopa pubescens was studied. After the first offspring had become adult, these nests reached a social stage in which there was only one egg-layer per nest.

Freshly emerged (teneral) adults eat a lot of food, collected by a forager, before they fly out of the nest. This food appears to be of major importance to these bees in that it makes them fully agile. It seems therefore, that part of the food needed for the development of a young bee is not given at the larval stage, via the beebread, but at the teneral adult stage. As a result of this, a necessary overlap of generations is accomplished. Besides, less pollen has to be collected for the provision of a brood cell, so more cells can be constructed within a short period of time.

There is a high degree of nest competition. Many nests were taken over by conspecific individuals (or by females of X. sulcatipes) that were searching for nesting sites within the study area. However, although more than 50% of the solitary nests were taken over sooner or later, strangers hardly ever intruded into social nests, with more than one adult. This illustrates how important it is for a reproducing female to tolerate the presence of nestmates which guard the nest in her absence.

Although in most cases the foundress of a nest proceeded to produce new brood in the presence of her offspring, it happened that a daughter took over reproduction from her mother. In two of these cases, it could be observed that a mother started a new nest elsewhere after having been thrown out by her own daughter. At least in these cases, nest competition between mother and daughter started long before the mother had reached the end of her reproductive capacities.

Since nesting possibilities are scarce, it seems a logical strategy to stay in the maternal nest and wait for a chance to become the egg-layer if the mother dies or if she loses her dominance.

The occurrence of several social interactions among nestmates is discussed:

— trophallaxis was observed often, not only under ‘forced’ conditions, but also as a form of ‘voluntary’ feeding;

— nestmates were observed to groom each other.