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Data from: Nest wax triggers worker reproduction in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris


Rottler-Hoermann, Ann-Marie; Schulz, Stefan; Ayasse, Manfred (2015), Data from: Nest wax triggers worker reproduction in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris, Dryad, Dataset,


Social insects are well known for their high level of cooperation. Workers of the primitively eusocial bumblebee Bombus terrestris are able to produce male offspring in the presence of a queen. Nonetheless, they only compete for reproduction, in the so-called competition phase, when the workforce is large enough to support the rearing of reproductives. So far, little is known about the proximate mechanisms underlying the shift between altruism and selfish behaviour in bumblebee workers. In this study, we have examined the influence of chemical cues from the nest wax on the onset of worker reproduction. Chemical analyses of wax extracts have revealed that the patterns and amounts of cuticular lipids change considerably during colony development. These changes in wax scent mirror worker abundance and the presence of fertile workers. In bioassays with queen-right worker groups, wax affects the dominance behaviour and ovarian development of workers. When exposed to wax from a colony in competition phase, workers start to compete for reproduction. We suggest that wax scent enables workers to time their reproduction by providing essential information concerning the social condition of the colony.

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