Female Choice in Social Insects

doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-17894-3_17


The mating biology of eusocial insects, being the ants, bees, wasps, and termites, is truly amazing as a number of reproductive traits have evolved in these species that are not or rarely found in other species, such as the absence of remating later in life, prolonged sperm storage, and extreme levels of queen fertility. Kin selection is recognized as a driving force shaping these insect societies and their reproductive biology, selecting for high relatedness among helpers, and limiting the number of fathers contributing to offspring. The study of the mating biology of social insects received remarkably little scientific attention, despite the fact that mating behavior can provide a mechanism through which high relatedness can be achieved. As a consequence, our current knowledge about the presence or absence of sexual selection including female choice remains poorly investigated. In this chapter, I provide a theoretical introduction to female choice in social insects, arguing that in the absence of female remating later in life and exceptional high demands for large numbers of viable sperm, queens should express male choice throughout all steps of the mating process. We then discuss some examples from the recent literature that provide empirical evidence for female choice (precopulatory and cryptic choice) and develop a number of questions and hypotheses that can be addressed in the future.

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