Behavioural specialization in pre-reproductive colonies of the allodapine bee Exoneura bicolor (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae)

P. A. Melna, M. P. Schwarz

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    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Exoneura bicolor is a univoltine allodapine bee common in montane forests of southern Australia, where it exhibits a semisocial/quasisocial colony organization. Within-nest behaviour in postemergence autumn nests of Exoneura bicolor was recorded with the aim of studying behavioural specialization in pre-reproductive colonies. Ten complete colonies were transferred to purpose-built observation nests shortly before brood eclosion in late summer. Behaviour within observation nests was recorded for periods of up to 44 days after establishment, covering a period when colonies are preparing for overwintering. Dispersal of females and brood rearing do not occur at this time, although some females may become inseminated. Analyses of data using multivariate techniques indicated four distinguishable behavioural castes, designated here as Guards, Nest Absenters, Nest Modifiers and Non-recruits. This represents a higher degree of behavioural specialization than recorded to date for other allodapines. Behaviours performed by Guards and Nest Absenters are likely to involve considerable risks, but benefit the colony as a whole, so that some nestmates in prereproductive colonies exhibit altruism that frequently aids adult siblings or cousins. The males in our study were fed by females via trophallaxis and two of the males participated in nest maintenance tasks. Our results suggest that autumn colonies of E. bicolor form well-integrated behavioural units even though brood rearing does not commence until the following spring.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    Number of pages18
    JournalInsectes Sociaux
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 1994


    • behaviour
    • behavioural castes
    • Exoneura bicolor
    • Hymenoptera
    • social bees


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