This past spring, Vern successfully defended his MSc thesis, which was about maternal care in the small carpenter bee, Ceratina calcarata. This species is normally considered to be solitary or subsocial, meaning that mothers raise their brood alone, without help from any other females. This entails a great deal of work for the mother, who constructs a nest, provisions each egg with pollen provisions, inspects the developing larvae and pupae, and then, as Vern discovered, feeds her adult offspring. What if mom isn’t there to feed the adult offspring? In an elegant set of field experiments, Vern removed mothers, and discovered that if mom dies or disappears, one of her daughters takes over and feeds her siblings. So, in effect, Vern induced helping behaviour in a supposedly solitary bee!
Evidently, both student and supervisor were very pleased with the thesis defense outcome!