Clinging to royalty: Ropalidia marginata queens can employ both pheromone and aggression

Saha, P. ; Balasubramaniam, K. N. ; Kalyani, J. N. ; Supriya, K. ; Padmanabhan, A. ; Gadagkar, R. (2011) Clinging to royalty: Ropalidia marginata queens can employ both pheromone and aggression Insectes Sociaux, 59 (1). pp. 41-44. ISSN 0020-1812

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Queens of the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata are behaviourally docile and maintain their reproductive monopoly by rubbing their abdomen and applying a pheromone to the nest surface. We argued that the queen should be overthrown if she is prevented from applying her pheromone. To test this prediction we introduced the queen and her workers into a cage without the nest, thereby removing the substrate for pheromone application. Contrary to our expectation, queens maintained their status (in six out of seven experiments), by continuing to rub their abdomens (and presumably applying pheromone) to cage walls even in absence of the nest. Such attempts to apply pheromone to the cage are expected to be relatively inefficient as the surface area would be very large. Thus we found that the queens were aggressively challenged by the workers and they in turn reciprocated with aggression toward their workers. Such aggressive queen-worker interactions are almost nonexistent in natural colonies and were also not recorded in the control experiments (with nests present). Our results reinforce the idea that pheromone helps R. marginata queens maintain their status and more importantly, they also show that, if necessary, queens can also supplement the pheromone with physical aggression.

Item Type:Article
Source:Copyright of this article belongs to Springer.
Keywords:Ropalidia marginata; Queens; Reproductive Monopoly; Pheromones; Aggression
ID Code:75425
Deposited On:22 Dec 2011 14:19
Last Modified:23 Jun 2012 07:11

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