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Artificial allodapine nests with female residents.

Jacki Smith, a PhD student with Prof. Michael Schwarz, Flinders University, Adelaide is visiting the lab of Dr. Theresa Wossler, a C·I·B core team member, for four months. Together they are analyzing and comparing hydrocarbon profiles between non-parasitised and parasitised allodapine bees. Jacki’s work focuses on social parasitism in allodapine bees with specific focus on the behavioural strategies, and chemical signatures used by the parasite to invade and integrate themselves into the host colonies, the consequences that invasion has for the functioning and productivity of the host colonies, and the evolution of social parasitism within the allodapine bees.

Most of the previous research on social parasites has focused on ants, wasps and bumblebees, with social parasitism in allodapine bees receiving very little attention. This lack of research is surprising because social parasitism has evolved more times in the allodapines than in all other bees and wasps combined. These origins occur in all of the major allodapine groups, and in species with very different ecological and life history traits.

Each of the origins of social parasitism is likely to have occurred with different constraints and pressures, and allodapines therefore provide a unique insight into the processes that may have been involved in the evolution of a parasitic strategy. The large number of origins in the allodapines is believed to be due to the physical and social structures of allodapine colonies providing a large exploitation potential for a parasitic strategy, and because the social systems of allodapine bees are very different to those found in the other, previously studied, social insects, it is expected that different parasitic strategies and host-parasite interactions will be found for allodapine parasites.

Jaclyn Smith is visiting Stellenbosch from Australia for four months