Andrew Giroux recently finished up a one-year stint in our lab, first completing an undergraduate Honours thesis, then sticking around for the summer as field and lab assistant. His Honours thesis and some of his summer work focussed on microsatellite genotyping of Halictus ligatus, our favourite local sweat bee. This year Andrew is finishing off a combined Biology and Education degree with a year at Teachers’ College.
Andrew’s undergrad research shows that ligatus colonies are even more anarchically “organized” than previously suspected (see Richards et al. 1995, Nature . Occasionally, a queen does manage to monopolize egg-laying, forcing her workers to altruistically forage for the pollen provisions that the queen needs for her own offspring. When this happens, colony structure is classically eusocial. Andrew has now shown that many colonies have multiple queens, queens tend be multiply mated, and many colonies have multiple egg-layers. In many colonies, workers must be more closely related to their own offspring than to the queen’s offspring. Under these circumstances, it pays for them to become selfish reproductives. In fact, under these circumstances, it’s rather surprising that they ever behave altruistically!
A manuscript based on Andrew’s research is in the works, to be submitted this fall, if he can fit it into his busy schedule!