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Abstract

Paralictus asteris Mitchell is a socially parasitic sweat bee that invades nests and becomes the dominant reproductive in colonies of a phylogenetically related host, Lasioglossum (Dialictus) imitatum (Smith). The parasite has a greatly enlarged quadrate head, with elongate scythe-like mandibles, and other morphological modifications apparently associated with a parasitic lifestyle. Nevertheless, the parasite did not forcefully enter nests. Host guards adopted a defensive posture at the nest entrance when they contacted a dead, frozen parasite, suggesting that they recognized the intruders as parasites. Living parasites, however, only sometimes induced this guarding response, while in other cases parasites entered host nests without obvious signs of aggression from the guard. Guards also responded aggressively to both frozen and living conspecifics from other nests, but were not aggressive to living or frozen nest-resident conspecifics, suggesting that the cues used for recognition of both unrelated conspecifics and parasites are chemical ones. More than one parasite can invade and occupy a nest, and successful invasion was not influenced by whether a parasitic female was mated or had developed ovaries.