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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Sep 19;103(38):14039-44. Epub 2006 Sep 11.

Phoretic nest parasites use sexual deception to obtain transport to their host's nest.

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  • 1Center for Ecosystem Survival, 699 Mississippi Street, Suite 106, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA. lsaul@meer.net

Abstract

Cooperative behaviors are common among social insects such as bees, wasps, ants, and termites, but they have not been reported from insect species that use aggressive mimicry to manipulate and exploit prey or hosts. Here we show that larval aggregations of the blister beetle Meloe franciscanus, which parasitize nests of the solitary bee Habropoda pallida, cooperate to exploit the sexual communication system of their hosts by producing a chemical cue that mimics the sex pheromone of the female bee. Male bees are lured to larval aggregations, and upon contact (pseudocopulation) the beetle larvae attach to the male bees. The larvae transfer to female bees during mating and subsequently are transported to the nests of their hosts. To mimic the chemical and visual signals of female bees effectively, the parasite larvae must cooperate, emphasizing the adaptive value of cooperation between larvae. The aggressive chemical mimicry by the beetle larvae and their subsequent transport to their hosts' nests by the hosts themselves provide an efficient solution to the problem of locating a critical but scarce resource in a harsh environment.

PMID:
16966608
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1599908
Free PMC Article
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