The attraction of sexual partners is a vital necessity among insects, and it involves conflict of interests and complex communication systems among male and female. In this study, we investigated the developing of sexual attractiveness in virgin queens (i.e., gynes) of Melipona flavolineata, an eusocial stingless bee. We followed the development of sexual attractiveness in 64 gynes, belonging to seven age classes (0, 3, 6, 9, 15, 18 days post-emergence), and we also evaluated the effect of different social interactions (such as competition between queens and interactions with workers) on the development of attractiveness in other 60 gynes. We used the number of males that tried to mate with a focal gyne as a representative variable of its sexual attractiveness. During the essays, each gyne was individually presented to 10 sexually mature males, and during 3 min, we counted the number of males that everted their genitalia in response to the presence of a gyne. Here, we show that M. flavolineata gynes are capable to (i) maintain their sexual attractiveness for long periods through adult life, (ii) they need a minimum social interaction to trigger the development of sexual attractiveness, and (iii) that gynes express this trait only within a social context. We conclude that the effective occurrence of matings is conditional on potential social interactions that gynes experienced before taking the nuptial flight, when they are still in the nest. These findings bring insights into the factors determining reproductive success in social insects.
Reproduction Mating Social contact Virgin queens Stingless bees
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We thank MSc. Ana Carolina Martins de Queiroz, MSc. Kamila Leão Leão, and MSc. Epifânia Emanuela de Macêdo Rocha for assistance during the experiments. We also thank Dr. Ayrton Vollet Neto for providing critical reading of early drafts of the manuscript, Dr. Alistair Campbell for linguistic advice, and the anonymous referees for the valuable comments which really improved this manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
This study was funded by CNPq (479710/2011-2, 400435/2014-4) and FAPESPA (ICAAF 30/2011). JCV was funded by CAPES (CAPES/EMBRAPA 15/2014).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
ESM 2Behaviors performed by dominant Melipona flavolineata gynes (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponini): the video starts by presenting a dominant gyne, which is not attacked. In sequence, we show a non-dominant gyne, killed by workers and thrown in the nest’s garbage area. We also show the behaviors related to dominance-subordination mechanism, with emphasis on the interactions with workers. (MP4 100,331 kb).
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